Story: Himeko and Chikane: Their Story (all chapters)

Authors: mandygirl78

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Chapter 1

Title: Himeko and Chikane: Their Story

[Author's notes: Japanese terminology:

Nekoko - ‘Little Cat'
Nya - How the Japanese say ‘meow'
Shichirin - A small portable stove
Oba-san - Aunt
Rezu - A derogatory term for a lesbian, the Japanese equivalent to ‘dyke'


The Shinjuku district, one of the 23 wards making up the metropolis city of Tokyo, Japan, is well known for its beautiful, impressive, and unique areas. Shinjuku is proud of its tall and majestic skyscrapers, unique bars and cafes, different cultures and its baseball team. However there is something that Shinjuku has a lot of but it's not very proud of. It's a group that the Japanese population considered that it brings shame to the country. In fact, the government has gone so far as the try to remove them from the area. They are the homeless, and they live in various places such as the Shinjuku Station and especially the Shinjuku Central Park, which is where this story takes place.

It was a late Monday morning around early August, a young wheat-blond haired girl was searching through the trash can looking for any tin cans. It is a common practice for the homeless to collect cans so they can take it to the recycling center and get money for it. She has only been in the area for a little more than two weeks and she had already started this activity. She had some money when she left her home but she already ran out of it. Her story is not that much different from most of the young female runaways. She ran away from a broken house in Mahoroba trying to find her mother.

While she was looking through the trash can, a little kitten came up near her. One of the things she tossed aside in her rummaging was some sushi and that was what had attracted the attention of the kitten. The kitten nibbled at the sushi, testing it before deciding it was tasty enough to eat. When it was done, it looked up at the girl, curious by the blonde.

"Nya, nya."

At first, she didn't hear the kitten's meowing so she went on rummaging through the garbage can until the kitten meowed again, a little louder then the first time.

"Nya, nya."

Startled, the girl looked up finally, noticing the kitten for the first time. Relieved, she knelt down, smiling.

"Hey there little kitty!" The young girl said excitingly with a soft, high-pitched voice.

The kitten, excited by the girl's reaction, suddenly ran off. The girl chased after the cat, though the cat was a little bit faster than she was, she still managed to keep up with it. Eventually the cat ran into to a blue tent. By then girl was winded, having run from one end of the park to other. Seeing that the kitten had gone inside the tent, the girl knocked on the ‘door' of the tent, not wanting to intrude.

After a moment, an unusual looking small girl came out of the tent. She had cat ears, a tail, and even sharp, canine teeth. She looked like a hybrid between a cat and a human being. Actually, she was a cat girl.

"What are you looking for?" The cat-girl said to the wheat-blond haired girl. The other girl was surprised to see a lot of cats inside the tent. There were at least five adult cats and about twenty kittens.

"I just saw a small kitten run inside your tent."

The cat-girl knew which one she was talking about since she had saw the kitten run inside the tent, so she picked it up and showed it to the other girl. "Oh you mean this one, nya?" She said with a cute meow.

"You're not from around here, are you?" The cat-girl said sensing the other's girls shyness and noticing her accent.

"No I'm not. I'm Kurusugawa Himeko from Mahoroba."

"Well, ohayo Gawa-san. I'm Nekoko, nice to meet you."

Himeko tried her best to hold her laughter but she failed.

"Nekoko... Hehehe!" Himeko giggled.

All Nekoko did was shake her head. She didn't take it personally since she had long ago gotten used to the laughs, snickers and giggles when she told people her name. "Yes I know, the people who named me wasn't very imaginative," she said with a displease look on her face. "So what brings you here to Tokyo, nya?"

"I'm looking for my mother. I found out that she was living somewhere in Tokyo."

"But you don't know where she is exactly though? Tokyo is a big place and it will be very hard to find her."

"I know that. All I really know is that she is living here in Tokyo somewhere. Besides, I rather be here than back at my relative's home. I'd rather be anywhere but there!" She said as tears began to roll down her face.

Nekoko saw the pain in Himeko's face but felt the need to ask anyway. "Why you don't want to stay at your relative's place?" There were also many other questions Nekoko wanted to ask such as why her mother left her but she didn't want to get too deep in Himeko's life, sensing she was prying enough with the one question.

"I rather not talk about it." She said softly going back to her usual shy state.

"No problem. Just tell me whenever you are ready. Now, don't be shy, come on in!" Nekoko said cheerfully. Himeko stepped in and looked around inside Nekoko's tent. Inside there were many pictures of animals, including cats, dogs, birds, and several other animals. There were also many weird objects throughout the tent. Himeko had no idea what they were.

"Neko-san, what are these things?" She asked as she pointed to one of them in a group. It looked a hoop.

"Oh, it's one of my props I use for my cat tricks."

"Cat tricks?"

"Hai, nya! You can say that I'm a street performer. I perform my cat tricks all over Tokyo, making some good money. Not enough to move to an apartment here but at least enough to get food for me and my cats and to take a hot shower in the public bathroom."

As Nekoko finished talking, Himeko looked at one of the cats and noticed that the cat was missing an eye.

"Neko-san, what happened to this cat?"

"That one? Oh that one is Shizuka. I think she was physically abused by her former owner. I saw her like this when I first found her. In fact she was worse - she was very skinny and could barely move. She's such a sweet cat, I don't know what made her previous owner treat her badly."

Himeko picked up the cat and held her in her arms. She couldn't help but shed a tear for the cat knowing the pain she went through. The cat purred while Himeko was holding her close to her chest while petting her head. Nekoko smiled wide when she saw it but was worried about Himeko sensing that she went through physical abuse herself.

"You're such a sweet cat, why would they do such a thing to you?" She said to the cat while trying to hold her tears back.

"Some of these cats I have here were abused by someone. Hiro over there is missing his left front leg but he can still get around. Rina's neck has marks on it. When I found her the collar she was wearing was too tight around her neck. All these cats were abandoned and/or abused when I found them, so I take care of them the best that I can. I don't know why people do such bad things to these poor creatures." Nekoko said while trying to hold back her own tears. "The cats are very loyal and loving to me because of how I take care of them compared to their previous owners."

After Nekoko gain a little composure she then said to Himeko "I'm going to have one of my performances here at the park around 3:00 PM. Would you like to watch?"

"I sure would!" Himeko said as her face lighted up.

"Great! Right now I'm hungry, how about some lunch at the Salvation Army, nya?"

"Yes, I'm very hungry myself. So yes, let's go."

They left for the Salvation Army's Relief Center. It's where many of the homeless and low-income workers came to get food and any necessary items. When they got there, the line for food was nearly a block long, so they quickly got on the line and waited for thirty minutes before they got their food. All they got for their patience and trouble was a noodle soup with a ball of rice and some green tea. The two girls found a small table and sat. Himeko prayed before she ate, a custom she learned from her relative's house the hard way. While they were eating Nekoko asked a question, sensing Himeko had calmed down from earlier.

"So how did you find out that your mom was living in Tokyo? How long were you separated from your mom?"

"Well I found a letter from her one day. Ever since I was a baby I was separated from my mothers, in fact I didn't even know that my mom was still alive until I found that letter. My aunt and uncle once told me she overdosed on drugs and died."

"Why would they do such a thing, nya?"

"I don't know, probably to collect child support money from me." Himeko said, looking away, closing up again about the very sensitive topic. Nekoko knew that there was more to the story but she didn't press on, feeling that it shouldn't be discussed in a public area anyway. So she went back to the letter.

"But wouldn't there be an address on the envelope saying where she was staying?"

"I only saw the letter, not the envelope. I couldn't find the envelope. They probably were planning to throw away the letter but they forgot."

"Oh. Was that the first time your mother wrote to you?"

"I don't think so. In the letter she said that it was great that I was doing well in school. I think that my relatives pretended to be me when they wrote back to her because I wasn't doing well in school at all." Himeko said while holding her head down.

"Oh. What about your father?"

"He's been dead since I was four years old. I barely remember him."

"Oh I see. So you really don't have anybody?"

"No, not really, I'm all alone." Himeko said as tears started to well up in her eyes. Nekoko gave a napkin and Himeko used it to wipe off the tears.

"It will be ok. Besides the cats I have no one either." She said, trying to reassure and comfort her the best that she can. She then went back to eating after a few moments, however she forget one other thing.

"Thank you very much for the napkin Neko-san." Himeko finally said.

"Don't worry about it. You can call me Neko-chan. Just eat your food and enjoy the rest of the day, nya."

"Alright Neko-chan." Himeko replied with a smile on her face. They continued eating their food before going back to Nekoko's place. While they were there, Nekoko trained her cats for their performance. She always did it before she leaves for her street performance, Nekoko explains to the blonde. Himeko was amazed at how the cats were able to do their tricks without much assistance. The cat-girl had trained them so well that all she had to do was give them a command and they would do it. During that time Himeko saw a photo of a white Persian cat hanging in the tent, it gave her an idea.

"Neko-chan, do you have any pencils or pens and some paper?"

"I do, let me get you some."

Neko-chan got a pencil and a few papers from a small box. She gave them to Himeko and the blonde immediately started to draw the outlines of the white Persian cat.

Thirty minutes before 3:00, the girls and the cats left the tent and went to an area near the north entrance of the park. There was already an audience. Some had already seen her mini-circus performance but wanted to see more. Nekoko and Himeko set up the props for the act, it was quicker than usual thanks to Himeko's help. So the cat-girl decided to start the show earlier. Nekoko was wearing the usual worn-out clothes that homeless people wore, but she was also wearing a top hat, presenting herself as the ring leader. There was a small box on the ground, which was where the audience was expected to throw their money in.

"Welcome to the greatest show on earth! It's none other than the Amazing Cats Show!" Afterwards the audience laughed and clapped at the same time.

"For the first presentation, Morris here will jump through the hoop!" Morris, as you probably can guess is a big orange Tabby cat. The hoop was barely big enough for him to fit, but somehow he was able to jump through it. The audience clapped and some threw their money into the box.

Other acts included the cats meowing to an Ayumi Hamasaki song, a cat standing and spinning in a circle, another cat waving to the audience, and a cat doing a standing flip. Himeko loved every bit of it as she watched the cats' performances. For Nekoko's hard work, she got about 70,000 yen. She showed it to Himeko.

"That's all you got, Neko-chan? Why didn't they give you more money?"

Nekoko was very disappointed, but she knew the reason why she got so little.

"It's because of the recession. People don't have as much as they used to so they give out less, nya." She said with a disappointed look on her face.

"Well at least it gives you enough for some food for you and the cats."

"That's true Himeko-chan, but a little bit more wouldn't hurt either. Anyways, there's no need to be down today, let's head back to my place." Nekoko said with a smile. Himeko nodded in agreement and followed her back to her tent. When they got to the tent, Nekoko got some noodle soup and started cooking it on the shichirin. While they were enjoying their dinner, Nekoko asked Himeko about Mahoroba since she has never been there. Himeko started to talk about the places to visit in Mahoroba. Like where all the good foods in Mahoroba were and what's in the Mahoroba Zoo, since she knew that Nekoko loved animals just as much as she did. She never talked much about her friends because she didn't have any and she carefully avoided any discussions about her relatives. Nekoko was fascinated with what Himeko was telling her about Mahoroba, otherwise.

After they finished their meal, they went to bed early. There was hardly enough space in the tent for Nekoko, Himeko, five grown cats and twenty kittens but somehow they all managed.

While Himeko was in her sleep she started to have a dream... actually it was a nightmare.


"Himeko, where the hell are you?" A middle-aged woman screamed out. Himeko was in her room shaking nervously, too scared to answer. She knew what her aunt was upset about, it was her report card and with the exception of Art, she didn't have any good grades.

Her aunt opened the door and saw Himeko covered in her covers with only her head sticking out. On top of the covers were papers of Himeko's drawings. There was nothing but total fear on Himeko's face. Her aunt ferociously pulled off the covers from the bed and grabbed Himeko by the shirt. She was holding Himeko's shirt in one hand and her report card in the other. She pinned Himeko to the wall and scolded her with all her fury.

"Are you mentally retarded or something?"

Himeko was crying and she timidly answered her question, "No oba-san, I'm not."

"Well it seems like it, since it shows in your report card that you got low grades on all the subjects besides that worthless subject Art. I mean how could you get a low grade on pre-Algebra?"

Himeko didn't answer.

"You stupid bitch, you're fifteen years old and you can't past Pre-Algebra? There are kids in America who can pass Pre-Algebra at your age!" She screamed to Himeko with all of her anger.

"I'm sorry oba-san, I will do better." Himeko said. She could barely see her aunt through all her tears.

"I'm sorry oba-san, I will do better." Her aunt said, mocking her soft high-pitched voice. "You will never do better because you're a dumb fuck! The only things you can do are drawing, which is a worthless skill that can't get you any type of decent job, and read crappy manga."

After that, she threw Himeko down on the floor and went into her closet. Himeko landed on her right shoulder and despite being in a lot of pain, she begged her aunt not to go into her closet, panicked-stricken. Her aunt ignored her and went into the closet anyway. Inside, she found a few pictures of naked girls Himeko had drew, most of them were from mangas and animes. It didn't make her aunt happy one bit, in fact it got her even more mad.

"I knew there was something wrong with you but I never thought that you were this sick. I'm gonna give you what you need, you sick rezu!" So she grabbed a wire hanger from the closet and came back to Himeko. The blonde girl was still lying on the floor crying as her aunt pulled her right arm back and hit Himeko in the back with all her strength.

"Please stop it oba-san!" Himeko begged while crying.

"Shut up you pathetic piece of shit!" She screamed back at Himeko.

"Aaahhh!" Himeko screamed when she got the hit.

With each lash Himeko got from the wire hanger her aunt screamed at her to shut up, but Himeko still screamed. She hit her at least five more times before Himeko started to scream in her sleep. "Please don't hit me anymore, I will be a good girl! I won't draw anymore naked girls! I'll get better grades in school I promise."

"Himeko wake up! Wake up!" Nekoko said while shaking Himeko to wake her up. With a jolt, she finally woke up and started to cry. Nekoko pulled Himeko's head into her shoulders comforted her while she was crying. Nekoko finally knew why she hadn't talked about her relatives so much.


[End notes: I would like to thank Valie for beta reading this story and correcting my grammar, flow and any other inconsistencies.]

Chapter 2

Title: Himeko’s Story

[Author's notes:

Author's Note - This story has not been checked by a beta reader since my beta reader have other commitments, so I'm seriously looking for a new beta reader. Please contact me if you're good with grammer, punctuations, characterizations, and story flow.

Japanese Terminology:

Okama - Effeminate man or drag queen, it this story it means ‘drag queen.'
Okayu - A type of rice porridge that is very popular in East Asia
Oji-san - Uncle.
Natto - Fermented soybeans on top of rice. It's a traditional Japanese breakfast.
Yakuza - A dangerous Japanese mafia-like crime organization.
Koji - Orphanage or an orphan.
Arigato - ‘Thank you.'
Arigatou gozaimasu - ‘Thank you very much.'



Nekoko was comforting Himeko, who was now crying on Nekoko's shoulders. After hearing her scream for her aunt's mercy in her sleep, she got a good glimpse of what Himeko was going through emotionally.

Then Nekoko said to Himeko "It's just a dream Hime-chan, nobody is going to hurt you."

Himeko finally took her head off of Nekoko's shoulders, looking up to Nekoko's face. She could hardly recognize her since she looked very blurry. Nekoko could see the pain in Himeko's face and tried her best to comfort her when she asked Himeko a question about her dream.

"Hime-chan you must have had a very bad nightmare, could you please tell me about it?"

Himeko knew that she couldn't keep it to herself any longer so she told Nekoko what happened.

"I had a dream that my oba-san was beating me with a hanger after she saw my grades and my drawings." Himeko said and the tears started to pick up again. She was really afraid to tell Nekoko the last part of her sentence but she wasn't aware that Nekoko already knew what it was.

"Oh my! Were the dreams based on what really happened to you?" Nekoko said calmly.

Himeko paused for a while before answering the question. She tried to stop her crying but instead she cried even more. While she was sobering she told Nekoko the truth about the dream.

"Yes, very much so, in fact the dream was the exact thing that happened last month. My oba-san saw my grades so she went inside my closet to get a wire hanger. When she went into the closet she saw my drawings. She went berserk after that and then started to beat me."

Nekoko was hesitant to bring up the next question but she knew she had to. "Were the drawings in the closet pictures of naked woman?"

Himeko was stunned when Nekoko said that, she didn't say anything for a while. Feeling very ashamed of it she stopped looking at Nekoko and lowered her head down.

"How did you know that?" She said while holding her head down feeling ashamed of it.

"You said that while you were talking in your sleep, nya."

She couldn't believe that she would let something like that come out. By then Himeko was in panic mode, expecting the worse from Nekoko.

"Yes they were pictures of naked women but please don't kick me out or hate me because of it!" Himeko said while bursting into tears. Her hands were covering up her face, felling ashamed of what she naturally desired and for letting Nekoko know about it.

"No, no, no Hime-chan, I have no problems with it." Nekoko said trying her best to reassure her, seeing how much it had stigmatized Himeko.

"In fact one of my best friends, Hana-chan, is gay as well. He's a big okama and he's a hoot! I really like his impression of Joan Crawford, they're amazing! I should introduce you to him some time, I mean her. I keep forgetting that he likes to be referred to as she."

Himeko lifted her head up and looked at Nekoko. Tears were still traveling down her cheeks but she was able to put on a small smile and then she let out a soft chuckled. "Really?" Himeko said as the tears stopped rolling down her face.

"Yes absolutely. Definitely tomorrow, I have to see him on some other things as well."

"Thank you very much Neko-chan!" Himeko said excitedly and hugged Nekoko. Nekoko just smiled, thinking in her head how lonely, sad and isolated Himeko was.

"No problem. Just go back to sleep. We have about three more hours before breakfast at the Cathedral."

"OK, well then good night Neko-chan."

"Good night to you as well Hime-chan."

As she was about to go back to sleep she remember one thing, "Oh I forgot to say my prayers!"

"You believe in God and Jesus Christ?" Nekoko said.

"Absolutely, Neko-chan. I always say my prayers. It's required at the place I used to live."

"It sounds like you grew up in a strict place."

"Yes, we are Pentecostals. My oji-san is a pastor and we always went to church. My relatives made me read the Bible everyday. I even went to an orthodox Christian school. Do you believe in God?"

"I do, nya. I do believe there is a god out there. It may not be God or Jesus Christ but I do believe in a higher being."

"My relatives told me that people who don't believe in God are sinners who will burn in hell."

Nekoko just chucked and then shook her head in disbelief. "I've heard that one before, usually those that say such things are the ones who should ‘burn in hell'. Anyways we need to get some sleep, so say your prayers and go to sleep."

"Okay Neko-chan. Good night."

So she said her prayers and then they both went back to their sleep. It was short but at least for Himeko is was peaceful.


When they got to St. Magudarena's Cathedral they got their food quickly since it was a small line. The food was being served on a table by nuns and they were serving Okayu and Natto, traditional Japanese breakfast dishes.

When they finally got to the table, a brown-skinned and purple-haired nun greeted both of them. Nekoko instantly knew who she was so she waved at her.

"Ohayo Neko-san, how are things for you."

"Fine Sister Miyako, and how are you?"

"Well I got to do some heavy gardening at the monastery today in preparation for the fall season. Plus I got to give my brother a call."

"So how is your brother doing?"

"He's fine. He told me about how his department busted a major Yazuka drug ring the other day. They celebrated on it yesterday."

Himeko asked Sister Miyako "is your brother a cop?"

"Yes he is. My little brother Girochi is a cop for the Shinjuku Police Department."

"Well he's anything but little," Nekoko said with a smile on her face. "He's freaking huge!"

"That's true," Miyako chuckled. "But he'll always be my little brother. Anyways may I ask what your friend's name is?"

"Kurusugawa Himeko," she said with her head held down low. Miyako was a very perceptive woman and she already knew that Himeko was shy.

"How are you doing Kuru-sama. How did you meet Neko-san?" She said trying her best to get Himeko out of her shell.

"Well I was chasing one of her kitties and it ran to her tent. She was there and that's how we met."

Miyako chuckled then said "that's rather interesting!"

"Yeah I know," Himeko said with a smile on her face.

"Anyways girls, let me give you your food because I don't wan to hold up the line. I'll see you two later if I have enough time" So Miyako gave them their breakfast and the two headed to a table. While they were eating their food they were chatting.

"So Neko-chan, do you like any other animals besides cats?"

"I love all animals, it's just that since I'm a cat-girl I understand cats better. I love having my own ‘cat circus' but that's not what I really want to do."

"What is it that you really want to do?" Himeko asked curiously.

"I want to own my own animal shelter where I can take care of a lot of koji animals."

"Wow, really?" Himeko said.

"Absolutely!" Nekoko said as she got excited about her dream. "But they're not going to be in some building cooped up in some cage most of the time. That's no different than being in prison, nya. Instead I would like to have my shelter on a private island, so all the animals can run and play outside. One day I would like to end the suffering of all animals!" Nekoko said enthusiastically. Himeko giggled when she heard that.

"What? Do you think I'm crazy?"

"Absolutely not! I really like your dream. I remember my art teacher once told me if you want to do something extraordinary in your life then you need to dream big, play full out, and go outside your comfort zone." Himeko said.

"Cool, most of the people I told about this just laughed at me." Nekoko said with a little bit of sadness.

"Actually it inspires me of my dream." Himeko said.

"What is it?" Nekoko said excitedly.

"I want to be a mangaka, not only that but I want to create a yuri masterpiece." Himeko said with a smile on her face.

"Yuri? Isn't that girl-girl relationship?"

"Yes it is." Himeko affirmed.

"What's wrong with the yuri manga that's out there?"

"Well a lot of it I fell is written for men, thus it's more about fanservice and less about plot."

"Fanservice, what's that?" Nekoko asked with a strange look on her face. She's very unfamiliar with the terms since she's not into anime or manga.

"Sorry I forgot that you don't read manga. Fanservice means adding unnecessary things to the storyline just to excite or arouse the audience with sexually-derived content."

"Don't girls like you like to also see sexually-derived content?"

"Yes but not so much that it takes away the story and it caters to only men."

"Oh I see. Well have you started on something?"

"I was trying to make my own doujin but my oba-san found it one day and burned it up," Himeko said with some pain in her voice.

Nekoko was thinking to herself how terrible of an aunt she was and was thankful that Himeko got out of that house. Unfamiliar with the term she asked, "Doujin, like a clique?"

Himeko just chuckled and Nekoko felt a little bit stupid for not knowing that word. Himeko saw the embarrassment on her face and quickly reassured her.

"Don't feel bad about it. It's not like a clique. Doujin is short for doujinshi, it means unofficial self-published work. It can be applied to anime, manga, video games, novels, etc. I feel like some doujins are better than the official work."

"Oh I see. Well I got some paper and pencil as you already know. Maybe you can start all over?"

"I would love to!" Himeko said with excitement. "Thanks Neko-chan."

"No problem, however I would like to ask one small favor from you."

"Sure what is it?"

"I saw your drawing of one of my cats yesterday and I was impressed. I was wondering if you can draw some background scenes so that I can use that for my circus."

"Sure, I would love to!" Himeko said while her face lit up.

"Great! Maybe we can get started soon," Nekoko said.

"Absolutely, I want to collect some cans so I can get some money first but after that I can get started."

"OK then you can start after my circus because I'm going to be heading to Shinbashi."

So they continued on their eating and then they parted their ways.


Later on during the late afternoon while Himeko was collecting some cans in a back alley she ran into an old camera. It wasn't digital at all but it looked like it was one that professionals used. So she picked it up and examined it closer. She saw that there were a few frames left in the camera, so she decided to take a picture to see if it was functionally working. She took a picture and it looked like it worked, she won't know if it really worked until she takes it to the photo shop. Finding the camera left a smile on her face.

"Well it must be my lucky day. First I got a drawing project now I got myself a camera," she said happily.

Little did she know she spoke too soon. About a few minutes after she found the camera three guys came right behind her. She didn't notice that they were behind her until she turned around.

"Hi there, are you looking for something?" She said rather naively.

"No we already found what we are looking for," one of the man said while gleaning at Himeko and wearing a wicked smile. He was a middle-aged man who was rather short but stocky and had a full beard. The second one behind him to his left was tall and younger but was rather ugly with a few missing teeth like most homeless people. The other one behind him to his right was old and very much bald with white hair, he couldn't be any younger than 60.

Judging by the look on their eyes and by their sinister smile Himeko was starting to get scared.

"I-I don't know w-what you're talking about," she said very nervously.

"You're about to find out right now, you sweet little thing," he said and the two men behind him quickly grabbed her. By then she knew what they wanted to do with her and she was scared for her life. Tears were quickly running down her face and she was trying her best to free herself from the grasp of the two men but their grip was too tight.

"Leave me alone!" She screamed to the middle-aged man but he ignored her plea. As soon as he came close to her she instinctively kicked him to the stomach. The men were surprised of the kick, especially the middle-aged man as he found himself on his knees while holding his stomach in pain. The tall guy turned around to face Himeko, while the older guy was still holding her, and gave a stiff punch to her stomach. It took some wind out of Himeko and she coughed a bit, feeling the pain from the punch.

The man who got kicked to the stomach was really mad at Himeko when he told her "so you're not so soft after all? Well I guess then you won't have any problems when I do this to you." He pulled his hand as far back as he could and slapped her right across her face. He left a red mark on her left cheek and also some blood trickled from her lips. The slap made her cry some more but it didn't really shut her up.

"HELP ME SOMEBODY, HELP!" She screamed desperately as she was hoping that someone could hear her plea and rescue her. The old guy covered her mouth with a firm grip unusual for his age. Now that the bearded man knew that Himeko was completely defenseless he then proceeded to take advantage of Himeko.

"Well then you sweet little girl, your innocence is about to end right now."

As he was about to rip her clothes off a loud crackling sound was heard behind his back. Someone had hit him from behind. He immediately dropped to his knees while bending down and holding his back in pain. Immediately Himeko and the two other men saw a blue-haired woman holding a broken wooded board. Her royal blue eyes were piercing right at the two men.

"Let her go or else you two will be next," she said.

"Well if it ain't the koji girl. You better leave or else we'll make you next. I can't wait to get my hands on those nice tits of yours," the tall said to her in a threatening matter.

"You ain't going to do anything to me or to that girl," the bluenette snorted.

As soon as she said that she charged after the men but the bearded guy quickly grabbed her right leg. She noticed it and she quickly back fisted him right at his face. He immediately went out cold. The old guy got to her first a swung at her but he missed. She gave him a punch to his face followed by a kick to the stomach. While he was holding his stomach she quickly kicked him right at his face, knocking him out for good.

The tall guy was amazed that a young girl was capable of taking out two men, so instead of engaging in a hand-to-hand combat with her he pulled out his knife. She may be a young girl but she had quite a few experiences in street fights so she always came prepared, she also had a knife but it was no ordinary knife. It was the tanto, a double-edge dagger suitable no only for stabbing but for slashing as well.

The man was nervous but he didn't want to show it nor could he chicken out of a fight with a girl, he would seriously lose his street cred. So he tried to swipe at the girl but she dodged the attack then tried to swipe at her again but she also dodged that one. She counterattacked by taking a swiped at his face but he ducked it. Then she lunged at his stomach but he scooted back to dodge it, unfortunately his back was up against the wall and she immediately took advantage of it. She then had the tanto right at his throat, the tip of it was touching his Adam's apple. A trickle of blood was starting to flow down from the cut.

"Now you better leave her alone or else...," she said with a fierce look on her eyes.

The man was shaken with fear when he said ‘OK' and quickly left the scene. The two other men were still lying on the ground unconscious. Himeko was at the corner of the alley, amazed at what she just saw. Not only was she amazed at her fighting skill but she was also amazed at her beauty. She has a beautiful royal blue hair with blue eyes to match. Her lips were thin yet beautiful and her bosom was full. She was taller than Himeko but not much. Even though her clothes were shabby she still had an elegant look to her. Himeko thought that she looked like a beautiful princess wearing clothes fit for a pauper. After the man was a good distance away from the alley, Himeko quickly went up to the blue-haired girl and hugged her.

"Arigatou gozaimasu sensei (ma'am)! You saved my life." Himeko said with tears in her eyes but the woman wasn't flattered one bit. She pushed her off her and scolded her.

"First of all, what were you doing in a back-alley by yourself? Don't you know how dangerous it is especially for someone like you?"

"Yes I know but I had to collect some cans since I needed the money."

"It sure isn't worth your life isn't it?" The girl said sternly.

"Not it wasn't, but please sensai I won't do it again!"

"The name is Himemiya Chikane. You were very lucky that I was around and that I know how to fight. They would have raped you without any remorse."

"I know they would." Himeko mumbled with her head hanging down.

Chikane didn't see any point of pressing the issue any further so she asked Himeko another question, "What's your name?"

"Kurusugawa Himeko."

"Well don't go to dark back-alleys without someone who can protect you or at least some sort of protection. I won't always protect you" she said as she walked away from Himeko.

For some strange reason Himeko had to know about her. Himeko, being quite a perceptive girl, knew that the girl was from her area, Mahoroba. She thought it would be nice for her to meet somebody who was from her city. So while she walked away Himeko started to follow her.



Chapter 3

Title: Perspective

As the blue haired girl walked out of the alley, Himeko followed, not quite sure if she felt safe on her own yet, the memories of what could have happened were still fresh in her mind. Well that and her sudden urge to get to know the stranger in front of her for reasons she couldn't explain.

Chikane was aware that she was being followed and knew exactly who it was. At first, she chose to ignore it. Who knows, maybe it was just a coincidence, but the farther she walked, the more she began to doubt it. Pretending the girl wasn't there would have been easier if the blonde was more...ignorable. For some reason her presence stuck out more than most. Regardless of the reason, Chikane found that she was quickly losing her patience.

"Will you stop following me, girl?" She said with a harsh tone.

The blue haired beauty's word stung more than Himeko would like to admit but she understood. To bluntly put it, she took it as if she wasn't good enough to be around her.

"S-sorry, thanks anyways," she said meekly.

The smaller girl's emotions played on her face like lights on the fourth of July. Her sadness and perhaps even a small trace of fear could easily be read by any bystander that bothered to look, let alone the girl standing right beside her. Oddly enough, the look on the fragile blonde's face pulled at Chikane heartstrings in a way she figured was best to examine later but for now she had to something about look.

"Never mind, let me take you back to your place so that no one can hurt you again. Where do you stay?"

"Actually take me to Neko-chan's tent; I was supposed to help her out with a few things."

"Neko-chan, eh? Is that crazy cat-woman your friend?"

"Yes she is, why do you say she's crazy?"

"She runs a circus full of cats, she's always cheerful, she thinks she rules the park, what else can I say about her to prove to you that she's crazy?"

Himeko was not the debating type, thinking that she's always wrong so it was useless to debate. Thus she went along with Chikane and all she said was "oh ok."

After that they walked in silence. Well up until the point that it began to much for Himeko to bare. So in a last ditch effort to start up some sort of conversation, she asked the taller girl a question, though she already knew the answer to it.

"Are you from Mahoroba?"

"Yes, you could probably tell from my accent. I'm guessing from your accent that you're also from there?"

"Yes I am. How long have you been here?"

"Long enough to know better than to go to some dark alley without carrying at least some sort of weapon, besides why did you run away from your home? You don't seem to be the type to run away, it must be something very serious."

Himeko hung her head down low and said softly. "Yes it was...."

"Never mind, you don't have to tell me because I really don't care," she said rather coldly.

Himeko couldn't understand why she was being so mean, if she truly didn't care then why would she bring it up in the first place. It was possible that perhaps there was something on the other girls mind. Or more likely, as the smaller girl saw it, Chikane could just simply be annoyed by Himeko's very presence. Whatever the case, she didn't dare to ask.

As soon as they got to Nekoko's place, the small cat girl spotted them and came up to Himeko.

"Where were you? I was a bit worried since I know it doesn't take that long to collect some cans."

But before Himeko uttered a word Chikane spoke up.

"Your intelligent friend here was all alone in the alley collecting cans when she had a rendezvous with the Snake clan."

Nekoko's eyes jumped when she heard that as Chikane continued.

"They were about to rape her before I saved her." Chikane said as she showed her swollen right hand to Nekoko. Nekoko gulped after she heard that. She knew about the Snake clan and how dangerous they were but she never thought that they would resort to raping. Also she wasn't pleased that it was Chikane of all people that saved Himeko, a woman who always seems to pluck her last nerve, but she didn't let her animosity with the woman get in the way of thanking her.

"Thank you very much Chikane-san."

"No problem lion tamer."

"Will you stop calling me that Chikane!" Nekoko hissed angrily. Himeko didn't see anything wrong with the name but her feline friend clearly saw it as an insult.

Chikane just chuckled and said "Why should I? You have your little rinky-dink circus with smelly cats doing stupid little tricks in front of a group of apathetic people."

Nekoko frowned and told her "Well at least I'm doing something besides brooding myself to death all day. Anyways I have trained my "smelly" cats a new "stupid" trick - to attack bitchy blue-haired bimbos, nya!"

Chikane gritted her teeth and pulled out her Tanto then stated to the tiny feline brat in a threatening tone "Go ahead and sic your polecats on me, see if I don't skin them all."

One thing that Chikane hadn't kept in mind was that Nekoko was part cat and being part cat meant that she had very sharp claws. Himeko saw her feline friend's hands were ready for action. Sensing that a fight was about to occur, she stepped in quickly before anything serious happened.

"OK, let's not start a fight here, there really is no need to be fighting. I think you two should apologize to each other."

When the two girls heard that they looked at Himeko like she had grown a third head. At first, due to their pride, neither said a word let alone look at each other but then Nekoko spoke.

"Look I apologize for being rude, Chikane-san." Nekoko said while looking at her face directly.

Chikane, then returned the stare and said "You should be sorry."

Then she walked away but not before giving the circus ringleader one last cold stare. It infuriated Nekoko even more. Turning to Himeko, the cat girl said. "See what I mean. She's ungrateful, self-centered, aloof, and arrogant."

Himeko was still surprised by how Chikane acted just then. Unlike Nekoko, she wasn't mad at the blue eyed girl, instead she was twice as concerned as she was before.

"Why is she so cold and mean Neko-chan? I was being nice to her and you apologized to her."

"I don't know Hime-chan. She has some serious problems, she always carrying a chip on her shoulder. As you can tell I can't stand her one bit."

"I think she is hurting inside." Himeko said sadly.

"She probably is but after what she just did, I couldn't care less. However she was right about one thing, you should never go into those alleys by yourself. I can handle myself. I'm a better fighter than I appear to be, you know."

"I didn't know any better, I'm sorry." The blonde said with her head hanging down and a tear traveled down her cheek.

"Ah don't feel so bad about it Hime-chan, you just didn't know," Nekoko assured her. "In fact I'll join you in collecting cans for a few days. I think I can put a few days off on my performance and help you out. The cats need a break anyway, so I guess now would be a good time."

Himeko had a big smile on her face when she said that. She was surprised that her busy feline friend would go out of her way to help her out. There weren't many people in her life that she could recall ever doing that for her.

"You really are going to join me?" The petite girl asked hopfully.

"I sure am."

"Arigato! Arigato!" Himeko said and bowed to Nekoko in respect, when suddenly she remembered something.

"Oh Neko-chan guess what I found in the alley today, a good camera!" She said excitedly.

"That's great Hime-chan, nya! Now you can take some beautiful pictures."

"I would but I noticed that the flash isn't working. Hopefully it's because of batteries. I really don't want to get rid of a good camera like this."

She showed the camera to Nekoko and she was amazed. It wasn't that she knew anything about photography because she didn't, but she saw how sophisticated the camera looked and assumed it was of good quality.

"Wow, is it like one of those that you can save on your computer or something like that?"

"No it isn't. It doesn't have any electrical components besides the batteries for the flash."

"Why don't you get some batteries for it right now?"

"But I don't have any money for any batteries. I didn't get the chance to take the cans to the recycling center. Besides, don't I have to do those drawings for you?"

"Don't worry about the drawings; you can do them later on tonight. Also here is some money to get you some batteries and some rolls of film."

Nekoko handed the yen to Himeko and a big smile lit up her face.

"Arigatou gozaimasu Neko-chan!"

"No problem, now go get those batteries and those rolls!"

The blonde girl nodded cheerfully.


One of the benefits of living in the Shinjuku ward was that if you need anything it was nearby, so Himeko didn't have to go far to get batteries for her camera. She found a photo store and got three rolls of films along with the batteries. After that she went back to the park. By then it was evening and the sun was about to set so the cheerful photographer thought it would be perfect to take some pictures of the park's scenery.

Her first pictures were the sun setting over the pond. She really liked the way the sun reflected from the pond. Then she took some pictures of the trees in the park. She thought how beautiful the trees looked with the evening light as the background. Finally she took some pictures of the park's statues and landscapes but she didn't take as many of it because of the fading sunlight.

By the time she was done she already had went through a complete roll of film and was about halfway through the second. The picture taking helped her take her mind off of the traumatic event that happened earlier, which she needed so badly. She was going to head back to the tent when Nekoko came up to her.

"There you are Himeko, I was scared that something happened to you again! I haven't seen you for a while so I decided to go looking for you. Thank God I did."

"I'm so sorry Neko-chan, it's just that as soon as I got back from the photo store I saw how beautiful the park looked with the sun setting, I just had to take a few photos."

"That's nice and all but especially with what just happened you should be concerned about being out here all by yourself at night." Nekoko stated.

"You're right Neko-chan, I'm sorry." Himeko said sadly.

"Look, let's get back before something happen to the both of us. Besides, you have some drawings to take care of." Nekoko said.

"I haven't forgotten about it."

So they went back to the tent without any incident.


In the tent Nekoko was training some of the kittens, preparing them for her circus. Himeko was doing some of the drawings on cardboard pieces using crayons that Nekoko had. She found out through trial and error that crayons work better on cardboard than pencil.

In between Nekoko's training breaks, Himeko would show the drawings to her. For the most part she approved of the girl's artwork.

"Hey Neko-chan, check out this one."

The feline came over and looked at the picture. It was a small cute lion jumping over a flaming hoop with Nekoko directing it. At first the cat girl glared at it with a frown, which Himeko saw immediately. Just as she was about to apologize, Nekoko realized that it was just a joke. She laughed and soon Himeko joined in to.

"So I see that you have me as a lion tamer, nya?" Nekoko said playfully.

"Yep!" Was all that Himeko said.

They just continued laughing and enjoying each other's company for some time until something unexpected happen. First Nekoko started to tremble then she started to hold her head like she was in pain. Then she began to scream. The recent events were shocking to Himeko. So much so that she didn't know what to do. Her brain just wouldn't react. Nekoko's knees giving out beneath her eventually snapped her frightened friend into gear.

While the pain and screaming was going on she was having flashbacks of her past.

"Oh my God, I need to get you some help!" Himeko panicked.

Nekoko heard her through all her screaming and told her "I don't need any help! Don't get me any help, nyyyyyaaaaaaahhhhh!"

Himeko didn't know what to do. She saw her friend was in pain but Nekoko also pleaded her not to get any help. Finally the frightened girl decided to get some help but before she could leave, Nekoko seemed to recover from whatever it was that was causing her so much pain.

"Himeko, I'm fine now. I don't need any help." She tried to convince Himeko even though her head still had some of the lingering pain left.

"Are you really sure?" Himeko said with tears rolling down her eyes.

"Yes, it happens every once in a while." Nekoko said.

"But why?" Himeko said with concern as she looked into the other's eyes. Nekoko stared back; it was her turn to explain.

Chapter 4

Title: Nekoko's Story

[Author's notes: Japanese Terminology:

Ano – Japanese way of saying ‘umm.’]

“As you know, I’m a cat-girl. I was the product of a once-secret experiment in a military laboratory located in the Saitama prefecture. The Japanese government and the military wanted to make a hybrid creature that would become the ultimate fighter.”

“Sounds like something from an anime.” Himeko concluded.

“It sure does. They took the embryos of mothers who donated them and fused it with a cat’s DNA chromosome. Out of twenty embryos, I was the only one that fully developed. I was in there for at least eighteen years. They pumped every type of drug you can imagine into me. They pumped so much shit into me I was starting to hate syringes!”

Nekoko continue as Himeko listened attentively, “The things I saw there were terrifying and would make the average person sick to the stomach. It wasn’t just guinea pigs that they performed experiments on; they experimented on every non-endangered species available, even humans! They did barbaric things to them like exposing them to radiation, electrocuting them, using painful procedures on them, severing private parts, etc. They had them attached to various devices at various part of the body; it didn’t look that much different from Igor’s lab.”

“Igor’s lab?” Himeko innocently questioned.

“You know, from Frankenstein?”

“Oh yeah, sorry about that.”

“No problem,” Nekoko said as she continued. “I collected evidence during my time there, figuring that if I ever escape I was going to expose to everyone these labs. Eventually I found a way to escape. I was there long enough to know the ins and outs of the place. Later I found out that the building’s ventilation reached the garbage room. That plus the knowledge that the garbage was taken at around 3 pm every Thursday at the same time when the scientist were checking out a few of the animals, gave me a plan. I was close with some of the lab rats and I was able to train them to start acting up when they hear a buzzer from my alarm.

So on a Thursday when they were short-staffed, I knew it was the perfect time to escape. I hid the alarm in the room very well and immediately went to the ventilation shaft near the end of the hallway. When 2:45 hit, the rats started to act up. It worked better than planned because as soon as the scientist opened the cage, the rats immediately ran out of it and were all over the room. I quickly opened the cover for the ventilation and rapidly move to the garbage room; luckily I was small enough to go through the ventilation without any problems. I only had fifteen minutes to spare but it was more than enough time to find it.

When I got there I quickly hid inside one of the trash bins. The smell was awful but I smelled even worse things in that godforsaken lab. When they picked up the bin and threw it in the garbage truck I was amazed that I was finally free from that place, but then I remembered that I had to get out of it as soon as possible. So when the truck stopped on a red light, I quickly got out and ran as fast as I can.

For a while I had to find ways to survive, digging through trash cans, stealing food, etc. Then I heard about a civil liberties group in this area that dealt with questionable scientific research. I found that civil liberties group and told them my story. They were going to publish it in the newsletter but the government got wind of my location and made a deal with the group stating that they will be funded greatly if they don’t say anything about the lab and its experiments and they will let me live. I was very upset about it, they sold me out. So I left them and with no money or no one to go to, I ended up here.”

Himeko silently let the story sink in her mind, feeling Nekoko’s pain as she went on. “It makes me mad what they do to those poor things. Just because they can’t speak doesn’t mean that they can’t feel pain! People don’t have a right to treat animals the way they want to. They’re not some toys that they can do as they please with. They are living creatures who contribute to this planet and they have as much right to live freely as humans do.” Nekoko finished as her ears laid back and she began to cry. Himeko came up to her and put the crying girl’s head on her shoulders.

“I understand how you feel Neko-chan.”

“I know you do Hime-chan, I know you do. I wish I can tell you more but right now I got a bad headache, I need to go to bed. You can stay up if you want.”

“No thanks, I’ll go to sleep too.”

“OK then Hime-chan, go ahead and say you prayers. If you do say them, please pray for all those animals and people who are wrongly abused in the name of science.” as Nekoko headed straight to her bed. Himeko got down on her knees and started to pray, prayed for the mother she barely knew about, prayed for the girl who saved her yet act so mean to her, prayed for her adopted parents even though they were terrible to her, she figured that’s what Jesus would do, and finally she prayed for those who were abused in the name of science as requested by Nekoko. However she never prayed about her own pain, sufferings or wants, thinking that it’s not right to ask God for her own selfish needs, but the hidden and denied truth was that she thought that her requests would never be answered. Why would they be? She never thought that she was good enough. Even for God.


The next day Himeko and Nekoko got up and went to get some breakfast. After that they started to collect cans and other ‘valuables’ such as bottles, metals, etc. While they were collecting Himeko found something.

“Wow, this is great!” she said as she picked up the object.

Nekoko came over there and said “What is great, nya?”

“It’s the special edition of Battle Mikos!”

“Battle Mikos? Is that a manga?”

“Yep! It’s one of my favorites!”

Nekoko wanted to know more about the manga but her stomach rumbled loudly.

“Excuse me! I think I need to eat. Are you hungry as well, nya?”

“Actually I am.”

“OK then, let’s stop and get something to eat.”

Himeko nodded her head in agreement. Eventually, they were able to get 5000 yen, not great but not bad either. They figured that they had enough to buy something to eat, instead of going to get free food. They were getting sick and tired of free foods, they may be free but they weren’t the tastiest meals. Since they were near the Shomben Yokocho area they decided to get a bite there. The Shomben Yokocho area is known for its yaki-tori shops, however most of them only cater to the native male customers, thus Nekoko and Himeko had to look for one that would accept them. In addition to the fact they were women, they were also homeless, something that the Japanese are not thrilled about. While they were looking for a place to eat most of the people around them were staring in disgust, wishing they would leave immediately. Eventually they ended up going to the one they can truly trust into accepting them, the Ruby Star.

It was small and cramped like most of the yaki-tori shops but it did have one advantage, they accepted anyone. The owners were a Seventh-Day Adventist couple who strongly believed in tolerance and acceptance regardless of their background, therefore they never turned anyone down unless they were causing trouble. Also due to their religious background, they had by far more vegetarian options than most restaurants in the area; however they didn’t have anything that the religion considered “unclean” (pork, duck, primates, non-scaled-and-finned fish). Since they weren’t in the mood for any of those things, it didn’t really matter.

When they got to the restaurant there was one other person there sitting at the far end of the counter. They didn’t take a close look at the person but it was apparent that the other person was also homeless, probably drove the other customers away even though she didn’t emit any bad odors. Nekoko ordered the Mehikari, a fried Japanese whitefish with several spices, and Himeko ordered the Negima, chicken with spring onion. While they were eating their food Himeko started to read the manga. Nekoko noticed how deeply interested Himiko was in it. It made her curious.

“Can you tell me about the manga?”

“Oh yeah! The manga is about two mikos who must save the planet from an invisible evil god named the Orochi using a battle mech who also happens to be a god.”

“Wow that sounds rather… interesting.” Nekoko said while trying to be polite, even though she thought it sound rather silly. However there was one person on the other end of the table who heard Himeko’s summary and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

“Two mikos? An invisible evil god? And a mech God? Who on this planet would write something that stupid?” said the blue-haired girl who saved Himeko’s life, Chikane. She too at the restaurant very often, often enough that people left as soon as she arrived, her attitude is very well known around the area. She was also eating her Tofu yaki-tori with her right hand still bandaged from the fight.

“Chikane-san, would you mind your own business?” Nekoko spat.

However Himeko answered Chikane’s question timidly “Ano, Kaishaku.”

“Well that explains it. You must be an otaku girl then?” Chikane scoffed.

As soon as she heard a word ‘otaku’ tears start forming in her eyes. She quickly left the shop and found a corner so no one can see her cry. “What a big baby,” Chikane mumbled as she continued to eat her food.

As she was crying in the corner, she replayed the unpleasant memories of her classmates teasing and bullying her in her mind. In Japanese culture, otaku is not considered a good thing, it is used on people who are considered to lack social skills, and thus Himeko saw it as an insult. Nekoko came up to her and tried to comfort her. She was beginning to understand how much the crying girl was hurting inside, however she knew that Himeko wouldn’t survive very long in the homeless world of Shinjuku if she kept on carrying that way, so she had to show her some tough love.

“Hime-chan?” Himeko didn’t say anything but continued crying, so Nekoko continued. “Listen, I know that back home in Mahoroba was rough and painful for you but you can’t cry in public around here.”

“I’m sorry Neko-chan but when someone calls me an otaku it just brings back painful memories of when my classmates used to pick on me.”

“Listen Hime-chan, the past is the past, you got to get over it. You got to be tough around here. If you think the schoolgirls at Mahoroba are tough, you ain’t seen nothing yet, although you already got an idea of how rough it is out here, nya.”

“I know but it’s just . . . hard.”

“Look just dry your eyes go back to the shop and just ignore Chikane. She may be a bitch but she won’t do anything to you. And if she does, I got your back.”

“Really?” Himeko said forming a small smile on her face.

“Yes, now let’s go back and eat our food before it gets cold. The fish is good and I’m planning to order seconds.”


So they went back to the restaurant and continued on eating their meal, however Chikane wasn’t about to shut up.

“I don’t know why you like hanging around that little sissy, Neko-san,” Chikane said while pointing at Himeko. “She’s going to be nothing but trouble for you. Soon everybody will know how weak she is and they will take advantage of it. You’re going to be a marked target.”

Nekoko was about to get furious with Chikane but she remembered what Himeko said the other day about Chikane and gave it some thought, maybe Hime-chan was right about Chikane, she might have something to hide.

“Chikane-san, with the way you act towards people it makes me wonder if you have something to hide. Maybe that’s why you get so offensive towards people.”

Chikane went stiffed for a second, shocked that the cat girl would bring that up. It didn’t escape Nekoko’s or Himeko’s attention, they saw it very well. She then returned back to her normal self and told her, “You don’t know anything about me to make such allegations!”

After that she quickly left the restaurant without looking at them back. Nekoko had a small grin on her face; she found a chink in Chikane’s shield. However for Himeko it left her wanting to know what’s really eating Chikane up. Himeko stared at her for a while as she was walking away, Nekoko brought her attention back.

“Himeko, did you see the surprise on her face? That was priceless!”

“Ano, yeah.” Himeko said softly.

“Now she probably would leave us alone for once.” Nekoko said as she returned to eating her meal. Himeko followed suit a few seconds later.

When she returned back to her meal, she noticed something at the end of the table where Chikane was sitting. She went over and picked it up. It was a gold necklace with a heart attached to it. It looked like it had snapped. Himeko put it in her pocket and went back to her food, mentally making a note to return the necklace back whenever she could.


After they finished eating they went to an alley not far from the block. It was where Nekoko’s friend Hana was staying. He had his cardboard home set up with pictures of various divas, female teen-idols, and hunky muscular men. He made sure his area was nice, tidy, and as glamorous as he could make it. Even though he was broke he still kept his vanity.

Hana was just lying down on his bed looking at a worn-out fashion magazine when he saw the two girls.

“Hey Neko-darling, how are you doing?” He liked to refer to Nekoko from time to time as “Neko-darlin.”

“Fine, how about yourself?”

“I’m fabulous as usual darling. Aren’t you going to introduce me to this angel?” Hana chimed.

Nekoko chuckled while being slightly embarrassed, “Sorry about that Hana-chan, this is Kurusugawa Himeko, my friend.”

“Hi, nice to meet you sir. . . I mean ma’am,” Himeko said nervously then hung her head down low in embarrassment.

“Ah don’t feel bad sweetheart, I know you don’t meet people like me everyday. Just call me ma’am for now on, okay?” He said with a grin.

“Okay ma’am.” She said bashfully.

“Good. Where are you from?”


“Goodness, that’s far away sweetie. I can tell that you ran away from home, did you have problems with you family.”

Himeko gulped, “Yes I did.”

Seeing the pain in Himeko’s face in her response he wisely decided not to press further, “Sorry little angel for asking you such a thing, I won’t bother you any further. However, what’s going on lately with you Neko-chan?”

“Well you know I don’t mind shooting the breeze with you a bit but I got some important things we need to discuss first. I seriously need to talk to you about the Snake clan and also those masked bastards that have been going around terrorizing the people at the park.”

“Well those masked guys have been nothing for trouble and I want to get to that, but first tell me about the Snake clan. What have they done now?”

“Those bastards tried to rape Hime-chan!” Nekoko hissed.


“Yeah, they tried to rape Himeko. When she was collecting cans by herself in one of the alleys not far from here the Snake clan came up to her and tried to rape her but she was saved by Chikane.”

“Is that so?” Hana said while looking at Himeko who really couldn’t look at him back.

“Yes, it happened,” she said trying her best not to cry.

“You poor child, what was a soft flower like you were doing in alley by yourself?”

“I needed some money so I went to collect cans in the alley. I didn’t think something like that would happen to me,” Himeko said. She couldn’t hold her tears any longer and they started flow down her face. “I promise I won’t do that again.”

“Ah dear, you must have been quite a sheltered little girl back in Mahoroba.”

“Yes, my aunt and uncle didn’t let me play with the kids.”

“Your aunt and uncle? What happened to your parents?”

“It’s personal, Hana-chan.” Nekoko stated.

“No Neko-chan, that’s ok. My father died when I was young and my mother is somewhere in this city.”

Nekoko intervened, “She got a letter from her mother but no address, stating that she’s living in Tokyo. So Hime-chan was looking for her mother but she ran out of money. Now she’s homeless, like the rest of us and going back to Mahoroba is not a good option for her.”

“I see. Have you tried the City Hall? They could help you find your mother.”

“I did but they told me that they couldn’t find her.”

“Oh my, well let me get my ‘girls’ on this, they could find something.”

“Your girls?” Himeko asked.

Hana saw the puzzled look on her face and chuckled “Hahaha, me and five other okames call ourselves the ‘girls’ because well . . . we’re all drag!”

Himeko just couldn’t help but laugh at the statement and Nekoko joined along with her, however Hana went back to his serious mode.

“Now back to the situation in hand. Me and the girls will take care of the Snake clan, alright darling?” Hana said to Himeko.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, Chikane-san really beat them up.”

“Yeah, two of them are in the hospital right now. The other one has not been seen in days.” Nekoko inserted.

“Chikane kicked their butts, huh? Well that serves them right.” Hana quipped. “I knew that girl was tough as nails, especially after she decked that guy in the food line a few months ago, but I never thought that she was capable of taking out three men by herself. Sometimes she’s an asshole but I’m glad she kicked their asses. They’ve been a nuisance in the area long enough; however they’re nothing like the masked gang.”

“They’re the ones who really scares me, just the other day they posted a message on my tent with a drawing of a dead cat on it saying that my days of being queen of the park are numbered.”

Himeko was shocked to hear this and brought it up. “Really? Why didn’t I see it?”

“That was because it was early in the morning and you were still asleep. I didn’t want you to find out because I thought you were rattled enough as it was.”

“Well you got it easy, sister. They attacked two of the girls a few days ago insulting them and threatening them to ‘prepare them for what they would experience in hell.’ That statement made Himeko jumped and had her shaken a bit. “Keroshi-chan got his arm cut badly and had to go to the clinic. They have been burning down people’s tents and cardboard boxes. In fact it was rumored that they were the ones responsible for killing Matamoyo-san two weeks ago?”

“Are you sure?” Nekoko responded with concern.

“Well Naoya-san was around the area, he thought he saw them running away from the alley where he was stabbed. It was rather dark and the lights were not that bright so he couldn’t get a good look.”

“Naoya-san?” Himeko questioned.

“He’s a good friend of ours.” Hana replied.

“I see. Has anybody got a good look at them?” Nekoko asked.

“No but one of the girls, Yukihiro-chan, told me that they threatened her right before they beat her up and that their voices sounded like young men.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been hearing incidents of young men beating up homeless people throughout Tokyo.”

“The thing is Neko-chan, I’ve told the police a few times about the incident and they said they would do something about it but I haven’t seen any signs of progress.”

“Well I talked to Girochi-san the other day and he said they were looking into it but they don’t have much evidence.”

“DON’T HAVE MUCH EVIDENCE!?!” Hana hysterically shouted.

“Well they’re masked men and they appear randomly in the night, Hana-chan.”

“I mean with all the so-called “wonderful” technology like DNA matching and Forensic Science, couldn’t they get some sore of evidence?” Hana steamed out.

“Yes but they’re limited to what they could do.”

“Sure I bet if they were targeting rich CEOs then they would have found them in no time. Sometimes I think the system just want us to be eliminated.”

“Come on now Hana-chan, I’m sure they’re trying to get the masked gang as much as they can, not all cops are corrupted. Girochi is one of the most loyal cops there is.”

“Yes I know, even though he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed,” he chaffed.

“That’s for sure.” Nekoko responded in agreement.


It was at a desolate alley in Shinjuki, not far from Nakano, where Chickane entered into. It was perfect for her, there were no people around for her to deal with, no people to watch her back for, no people to take advantage of her. It was one of the few places where she can be vulnerable without any fear as she moved towards the dead-end wall in the alley. Finally when she got to the end, she sat down, covered her face with her hands and started to cry, crying about something that has been disturbing her even since she’s been in Tokyo. She still hasn’t realized that her necklace was no longer around her neck.


While they were having their discussion Himeko was listening but she was also looking at the various pictures around the place. There were various pictures of divas and idols that included Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Brittany Spears, Julia Roberts, etc. There were also many black-and-white pictures of women that Himeko couldn’t recognize. Hana noticed that Himeko was staring at them blankly so she came up to her.

“Honey child, what are you looking at?”

“Who are these women?”

“Oh you don’t know them?” Hana asked and Himeko shook her head ‘no’.
“That one over there is Bette Davis.”

“Who is Bette Davis?”

“Oh she’s an American actress who was popular during the 30s and 40s. A real glamor queen if you ask me.”

“Oh, and is that one over there Joan Crawford?”

“Yes! How did you know that one?”

“Neko-chan showed me some pictures of her.”

“The ones she stole from me?” He said as he stared at her. Nekoko simply responded back with a sheepish grin.

“She was a beauty to watch on the screen, but she was a real bitch off the screen. She didn’t have a lot of friends.”

“Really, was she that bad?”

“She makes Chikane look like Mother Teresa!” Hana said using an example that he knew would sink in Himeko’s mind.

“That’s saying a lot…” Nekoko mumbled.

“Neko-chan…” Hana said ruefully. Nekoko was about to respond but Hana knew where it was going so he quickly changed the subject. “Do you want to see some impressions of her.”

“Yes, I would love to!” Himeko said excitedly.

Hana had a smile on his face so he quickly turned into Joan Crawford and started to talk and act like her.

“I, Joan Crawford, I believe in the dollar. Everything I earn, I spend.”

Both Nekoko and Himeko were enjoying the spectacle Hana was displaying as he was quoting memorable scenes from such classics as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and Grand Hotel. While they were watching Hana’s performance another homeless guy interrupted Nekoko to get her attention.

“Neko-san, I need to see you immediately.”

“Can it wait, I’m with my friends.”

“No it can’t.” He replied and then he whispered in her ears. Her eyes widened and she immediately excused herself.

“Hana-chan and Hime-chan, I need to talk to him right now, I’ll be back.”

As she left the alley Himeko remembered what she wanted to ask Hana.

“Hana-chan, do you know where Chikane lives?”

“Well she lives at the east side of the Station, why did you ask?”

“Well, when we were eating at Ruby Star she left this behind,” she said as she pulled out the necklace.

“Oh that thing, I always see here wearing it. Once I asked her to let me take a look at it and she growled at me back.”

“It must be very important to her; I got to return it back to her.”

“That’s awfully nice of you to do that?”

“Why’s that?” Himeko asked as she was very puzzled by his response.

“People around here don’t return valuable things like jewelry and such. They usually take it to the nearest pawn shop and get some money on it.”

“Oh, but it’s not mine and it’s only the right thing to do,” Himeko reasoned, although she was hiding from Hana that it would also give her another opportunity to meet her again.

“Well if you go to where the Central East ticket gate is located you will find her there.”

“Arigato Hana-san.” Himeko politely said as she bowed.

“No problem darling.”

Nekoko returned back to the alley.

“I need to get back to my tent and talk to the guy more. It seemed that he heard that the Snake clan have regrouped and was planning to ruin my circus. We got to go Himeko.”

“I can bring Himeko back if you want me to.”

“There’s no need Hana-san. I want to go back and do a few drawings in my tent,” Himeko stated. Just the other day Nekoko helped her get a tent so she can have her own space.

“Well OK then, I’ll see you two later than, especially this little angle here.” He said as Himeko blushed.

“I’ll come back and visit you some time this week Hana-chan.” Nekoko responded.

“Nice meeting you Hana-san.” Himeko smiled.

“Nice meeting you too darling.” Hana replied.

When she returned to her tent Himeko took a look at the necklace. She noticed that there was a crack in the heart. When she opened it she saw a picture, it wasn’t just a necklace, it was a locket. The picture was a young blond-hair girl, whose hair was brighter than Himeko’s, with dark-brown eyes. At first Himeko was surprised that Chikane would have a picture of a girl in her locket but then it all started to make some sense. The girl must have been her lover. For some reason it made her heart jump and at the same time it made her a bit sad. While she was looking at the picture, her eyes drifted over to her color pencils near the locket. Since she didn’t have much to do, she decided draw a picture of the girl in the locket. Why not? So she immediately grabbed a piece of paper, some color pencils and started to draw the picture.  ***

Chapter 5

Title: Giving to the Needy

[Author's notes:  Japanese Terminology:

Hoshi - Star

Onee-chan -"Big sister" or a way to address a woman of higher power.

Gomen nasai - I'm Sorry

Kabukichou - An area in Shinjuku where it was traditionally a stronghold for the Yakuzas, but currently there's a movement going on to get rid of the Yakuzas called Kabukichou Renaissance. Kabukichou is also well known for something else, more on that in future chapters.

Golden Gai - (From Wikipedia) an area of tiny shanty-style bars and clubs. Musicians, artists, actors and directors gather here, and the ramshackle walls of the bars are literally plastered with movie posters.

Baka - Idiot, not a very nice thing to say to a Japanese person.

Dou itashimashite - You're welcome


"Where's my locket, bitch?!!!" Chikane screamed.

"I don't have your stupid locket!" The other woman screamed.

"Then where the hell is it?!"

"That stupid piece of junk could have broken off. It looked like it was on its last chain anyways."

"Don't you dare call my necklace a piece of junk!"

"Oh my! Behold the great princess Miya-sama, lost her precious jewelry, pity to the world," She ended in a mocking tone, saying it loud enough to make everybody in the section take notice.

"Corona, will you quit calling me Miya-sama, you skanky ho?! You of all people should be the last on this pathetic earth to call me that, especially with that fake diva attitude you carry around."

Corona Hoshi often calls her "Miya-sama" because of her aloof personality. However, as Chikane stated, she at times acts like a diva, primarily because she was a singer who wants to be a pop idol so badly, and she thinks one way she'll get there is to act like a diva like most pop idols. She is also Chikane's "next-door neighbor" and she's basically the same age as her. Even though she didn't grow up an orphan, she too ran away from a troubled situation. Her mother left her when she was a baby, thinking she could do better without them, and her father was an alcoholic. He never abused her physically but tortured her verbally regardless of whether he was drunk or not, reason was that she looked so much like her mother. His verbal abuse has created some self-esteemed issues in Corona like Himeko but the effect is not as severe.

"Why should I, you royal pain-in-the-ass highness? At least I will be a pop idol one day, so I have an excuse to act like a diva. It's my destiny to be a star; after all it is my last name. All hail to the princess in her irrelevant glory!" She said out loud. Chikane started to grit her teeth in anger. May I also add that Corona is delusional.

"If you keep it up bitch, I'm going to make you see stars!" She sneered.

This was almost an everyday event for the two ‘residents' of Shinjuku Train Station, Chikane and Corona's constant bantering. Everybody who was nearby watch the spectacle the two often performed unintentionally. Some, who were daily commuters, shook their heads in disbelief, wondering why the station guards haven't put them out permanently. Their fights have become something of an embarrassment for the station and they have put them out, yet due to the size of the station and the lack of security guards, every time they put them out, they just come back. One of them mumbled, "These homeless trash should be locked up in jail for good. I don't care if they're just young girls." For a culture that prides themselves greatly in appearance and impressions, those two and their fiascos were considered utter shame, knowing full well that there are quite a few foreigners who had witnessed their racket.

"Hey, I didn't steal your locket! I don't make stealing a full-time profession like someone I know," Corona snorted back while looking at her. Chikane gave her an evil sneer in return as she continued in her defense.

"You should know me by now that I wouldn't dare take your stuff." That's not totally true, Corona has at times "borrowed" items from Chikane's "house," a big, dirty, worn-out cardboard with an equally dirty, worn-out blanket and pillow. The rest of her possessions are in a small plastic bag that she carries around because of Corona. Sometimes she did it because she doesn't want to pay for it, but sometimes she also did it out of spite.

"I can't trust you," Chikane barked.

"Do you trust anyone?" Corona chided, raising an eyebrow.

"With shifty bitches like you around in this city, why should I?" Chikane spat back, glaring at Corona.

"Because I know very well that a shifty, trashy koji girl like you doesn't have much valuable shit to take anyway."

"I may be a koji girl with a less-than-respectable profession but at least my profession doesn't require me to always be on my knees or my back!"

"Why, you stupid bimbo!" Corona screamed and lunged at Chikane. Chikane was taken aback never, thinking that Corona had the tits to charge at her. The sudden impact caused Chikane to fall the ground on her back while Corona was on top, but it didn't take her too long for her to easily overpower Corona. And in an instant, she pulled a switchback on Corona, grabbing her shirt and slamming her on the floor, gaining the upper hand atop her adversary. Chikane was unable to punch effectively with her bandaged hand and also she did not want to break her good hand against Corona's face.

Eventually, a security guard came to the scene and broke it up, grabbing Chikane with a good amount of his strength. He was nearly as big as Girochi and Chikane knew better than to take him on. When Corona finally got up from the floor, she took advantage of Chikane's disadvantaged position and slapped her right across the face. He could have charged her with assault but since he never liked Chikane's attitude, he let it slide.

"Officer Kyosabi-san, she just slapped me! Aren't you going to do something about it!"

"Yeah, Corona-san, get out of this area immediately."

Knowing full well that he just basically gave her a slap on the wrist, she just smiled and picked up her stuff.

"Okay officer, I will do as I am told," She said along with a pompous smug on her face and quietly left the area.

Chikane was shocked that he let her off the hook and just as he let her go, she stated her complaint to the officer as diplomatically as she could.

"What the fuck?!! The bitch just slapped me in front of you and you just let her go? What kind of god damn officer are you? A pathetic and lousy one if you ask me," She grunted.

Officer Kyosabi had enough of her mouth and gritted his teeth at her, "You listen to me, you foul-mouthed koji bitch. I will have your dirty cunt sent back to that hellhole in Mahoroba if you don't shut the fuck up. I'm sure they'll be happy to see you back, get my drift?"

That quickly quieted her, knowing full well that he had to power to send her back. The last place she wants to be is at that koji. After a second or two she mumbled, "Understood officer."

The guard heard her good enough to understand her affirmation and said, "Now, don't have me come back here again, cause I won't be so nice the next time." Immediately, he threw her at the wall and walked away. There were people at the area that saw the incident but some were too afraid of the officer and others were glad that he took care of that embarrassing "trash."


Fall was approaching and although Tokyo's autumn is pleasant and cozy, it can be a bit cold at times. Thus, every year for the past ten years there has been a clothes giveaway, where second-hand clothes are available for free too many homeless people. Founder of the charity event is Kazuki Ougami, a highly respected priest of the Solar and Lunar Temple across the street from the station. He was coordinating the preparations going on in the front lobby of the temple. This is usually a project he coordinates himself but this year his is being assisted by a special assistant.

"Do you have everything ready for the giveaway, Sister Miyako-san?"

"I sure do sensei. With the exception of the next pile coming up, all the clothes have been sorted. The jackets, long-sleeve shirts, pants, and long skirts are sorted by size and gender," She said kneeling on the floor while she had the clothes neatly separated around her. "Also the bad clothes are at a separate pile," She mentioned.

"Good. Do you think we have enough time to sort out the last pile you're brother is bringing out?"

"I think so, as long as I'm doing the sorting and my brother doesn't do something stupid."

"Yes, God forbid," Kazuki said in despair. Last year, when Officer Girochi participated without his sister, he sorted the clothes based on the design label, regardless of the space of the clothes. That didn't sit too well with Kazuki. "I'm very surprised that you decided to help out this ‘non-believer'," He said in his usual dry humor matter as he continued, "Because whether I ask your church for any of the project I or my temple are involve in, they turn me down for various reasons."

"Homelessness is everybody's problem. No one church or group can fight it all alone. In the bible, Jesus didn't care what religion the homeless belonged to. He still helped them regardless. It's such a shame that people in my church won't open up to others and help make things better in this world."

Kazuki had a small smile and responded, "Yes, I totally agree with you. I'm not too familiar with the Bible or Jesus Christ, but I've heard his story enough to know that he was always there to help others.

In a little more than a second later, Miyako's brother, Girochi, was carrying a big pile of clothes he got from the storage room, it looked like he was carrying a big mountain!

"Oh boy, this is one heavy load I tell ya!"

"Are you ok Girochi-san? Do you need my help?" Kazuki stated for concern.

"Nope, I'm fine. This is nuthin' for me!" He said with his usual assured confidence carrying the big pile. The pile was so big he couldn't see through it and that turned out to be a problem since he couldn't see that his sister was nearby. Kazuki saw the impact coming and tried his best to warn Girochi.

"Girochi-san, watch out for your sister!"

She was still sorting the clothes when she heard Kazuki's warning, however she didn't react quick enough to evade it.

"Girochi, I'm...AAAHHHH!"

He collided onto her, most of the clothes flew all other the place while some of them were sandwiched between her and Girochi as he fell on top of her. It was very uncomfortable to her since he was more than twice her weight. The scattered clothes screwed up the neatly organized pile she had labored on for hours. Kazuki saw the full collision and just shook his head in disbelief.

Knowing fully well how heavy he is and how somewhat fragile she was, he quickly got off her and took the sandwiched clothes off her. Miyako was lying on the floor face down moaning painfully, she looked like she was barely living. He pulled her off the floor and saw that her face was rather red.

"Onee-chan, are you alright?"

"I guess so..." She said in pain.

"Gomen nasai, onee-chan."

"That's okay, I'm still living - barely."

Seeing her red face Kazuki came up to her quickly.

"You looked hurt, do you need any medical attention?"

Miyako felt like that she didn't need any attention and stopping was the last thing on her mind so she told him, "No, I'm fine, I can continue."

Before Kazuki was going to stop her regardless of what she said, a young black-haired man along with a young, short, brunette woman entered into the temple. They were a bit shock seeing most of the clothes all over the place.

"What happened here?" He said.

"Looked like a small tornado came in here?" The young lady added.

Kazuki was happy to see his younger adopted brother, Souma Ougami, and his girlfriend Makoto Saotome. They were coming back from their practices at school. Souma is a top athlete in his school, lettered in four sports; baseball, basketball, soccer and tennis. He's considered one of the top high-school tennis players in Japan. His skills are so good, his former private tennis coach tried to persuade him to go pro but Kazuki wanted him to get his education. Makoto is an equally skilled athlete who is involved in the school's volleyball, soccer, baseball and track and field team. She's considered one of the top high school track and field athletes in Japan. Their love of sports and other things is what draws them together.

"Yeah, Tornado, Girochi-san." Kazuki quipped.

"Yep, that's Tornado Girochi-san, leaving a mess everywhere he goes," Makoto quipped in return.

Girochi heard Makato's smart reply, "Hey, I heard that!"

"Officer Girochi-san, how are you doing?" She said followed with a soft hug on his hips. She was rather short and he was tall and big thus she couldn't fully hug him. Kazuki left the area after that to attend other pressing matters.

"I'm dong fine, especially after the Yakuza bust at Kabukichou."

"Yeah, I've heard about the bust! How did you guys do that?" Souma said excitedly.

"Well me and my group, including your friend Setsuna-san, did three raids at various places that the Yakuzas do their business in Kabukichou. In one of the raids, we captured a big leader of the Yakuza." As Girochi stated, Setsuna is a good friend of Souma. They often play tennis together and she is a few years older than Souma. She is also a mentor to Souma when it comes to tennis. "However, as usual, when we get rid of one trash another takes over. The African Syndicate is starting to run things over there."

"Were there like a gun shooting and stuff?" Souma inquired.

"Oh, come on Souma-kun, it's not like a TV show or an anime!" Makoto scoffed.

Girochi just chuckled and said, "No, nothing like that, we took them by surprise. We surprised them so much that they didn't have the time to grab their weapons. There were thirty of us and we had them surrounded quickly, none of us got hurt. Boy, I tell ya, by the way the lieutenant planned it he should be the next chief of our precinct!"

"Well, I guess that means Setsuna-san can play in our pick-up soccer game down the park tomorrow?"

"She sure can, and I'll be there as well!"

"I hope you'll be there, maybe that time I get to score four goals against you, girl power!" Makoto said. The last time they played soccer together, the quick and nimble forward Makoto scored two goals against the big and slow goalie Girochi.

"No you won't Makoto-san, last time I was sore from my last assignment."

Believing that Girochi was making excuses Makoto playfully taunted, "Are you just jealous that a girl whooped your butt in soccer?"

"He sure is," Miyako responded in amusement.

"Onee-chan shut up!" Miyako just smiled back when he said it. "I was going easy on her since she was a girl. If I wasn't so generous she wouldn't have scored at all!"

"But what about you being hurt?" Miyako added.

"Well...that too! I-I-I could have..." He was starting to sweat and his brown face was showing some red as he was stumbling. Souma and Makoto were laughing at the embarrassing situation, eventually Miyako joined in. Still bruised by the collision, the laughing was a bit painful but Miyako tried her best to hide it. The laughter ended when Kazuki came back to the area.

"Souma-chan, have you seen Yukihito?"

"No, I haven't. He hasn't been around that much lately."

"Hmm, he knows about today yet he doesn't come on time."

"I haven't heard from him since yesterday. I tried to call his home the other day but I got a message saying the phone has been disconnected."

"That's very strange. Probably his parents are changing to a new line."

"Or getting rid of it, you know most people don't use landlines anymore," Makoto added in the conversation.

"That's true, but he should have at least told us about it. Anyhow, since it seems that you have some free time and that we have a lot of work to do, Souma, why don't you go sort out the clothes while Sister Miyako-san takes a break."

Souma had a stunned look on his face when Kazuki said that. "But I'm with Mako-chan and I need to study, can I spend some time with her?"

"Well, you can still spend some time with her, both of you can sort the clothes together. And don't try that ‘I need to study' trick, the first thing you do when you get here is to play video games on your computer. After you are done with the clothes then you and Makoto-san can go study. Don't forget who's in charge here," He said as he walked away to take care of other important issues.

The couple just gave a surprised look at each other. Soumo was clearly miffed at his brother's actions. "I swear to the Gods that one day I'll-"

"Come on now honey, it's not so bad. Think about it, we're improving the lives of thousands of homeless people." Makoto stated with her usual sunny disposition on life. "Thus we're making a difference on a lot of people lives, I think that's really exciting!"

"About as exciting as listening to elevator music."

Miyako just chuckled, "Look Souma-san, you and Makoto-san don't need to help me, I can take care of this myself. You two can go and do your studying."

"Sister Miyako-san, I need you for a minute," Kazuki called from a distance.

"OK, I'm coming."

Thus it left Souma and Makoto with the scattered clothes. "Come on Souma-kun, the sooner we get this done, the sooner we get to ‘study'," she said with a seductive wink at the end. That was all the motivation Souma needed to sort the clothes. Meanwhile while Kazuki, Miyako, and Girochi were taking care of other priorities at the back of the temple, Girochi got a phone call from the precinct.

"...Is that so? Okay I'll tell him right away and I'll be on a lookout for him. Take care and have a good day."

As soon as Girochi hanged up Kazuki asked him "What was that all about."

"I got news that Souma-san's brother Tsubasa has escaped from the mental institution."

"What!" Miyako shouted out inadvertently, getting a quick sharp headache as a result."

Kazuki with his usual cool and stoic demeanor said calmly, "That's not good, especially with his case. He could get himself hurt out there."

"Or others."

"Girochi, how could you say something like that?!" Miyako said regardless of the pain she was suffering, even though her face showed it.

"Onee-chan, I know how important Tsubasa is to you but let's face it, with his condition of schizophrenia, he's a dangerous risk to the general public. Trust me on this, I've dealt with my share of nutty schitzos in my job." Miyako gave him a dirty look for using that term but Girochi didn't get it, instead he responded with, "What?" Miyako just shook her head, not bothering to explain his insensitivity.

Tsubasa is Souma's biological older brother who was adopted by the Ougami family after their parents were killed in a plane crash. He was fine during his teen years, in fact he was dating Miyako during his high school and early college years, but during his college years he developed a severe case of schizophrenia. At first, Kazuki didn't want to send him to the institution, fearing the treatment he might receive over there, but one day he inexplicitly attacked Kazuki thinking he was a demon who was about to attack him and his brother. After that, he had no choice but to send him there.

"I need to tell Souma-san about this. I have a feeling that he will come here to see his brother and probably Sister Miyako-san." Kazuki noted.

"Yes, tell him. Who knows what he's capable of? He might instead come after him."

About a few seconds later, Yukihito finally arrived at the temple. His face looked like he was tired even though he woke up just an hour and a half earlier. He tried to sneak in nonchalantly but Miyako spotted him.

"Hey, Yuki-san, we were wondering where you were."

"Ano, I had to do some errands for my father."

"Why didn't you tell us about it? You know that we have to get everything set up for the clothes run, right now we only got an hours left."

"Yes, I know and I do apologize."

When Kazuki spotted Yukihito, he called him out.

"Where were you Yuki-chan? I tried to call earlier but I got a message saying the phone was disconnected. What's going on?"

"Like I told Sister Miyako-san, I was taking care of things for my father. My family got the landline disconnected, we're not using it that much anymore and we need to save as much money as we can especially in these hard times," he said with some nervousness in his eyes and in his voice. Kazuki and Girochi didn't pick it up but the very perceptive Sister Miyako sure did.

"I see, right now Souma-san and Makoto-san are getting the clothes together, you can start getting the tables together."

"Yes, sensei."

"And you will have to clean up the entire temple after the clothes run, that's your punishment for being extremely late."

"But sensei, I got to do my school work!" Yukihito protested.

"You should have thought about that the night before. I know very that you overslept. Your father would have made sure that you got here since I told him about it days ago. Not only did you come here late, but you also lied to me and to Sister Miyako-san and I will deal with you about that later on today. Now don't say anymore and get those tables set up. End of discussion."

"Yes, sensei." Yukihito sulked and he went to get the tables.

"He probably had a hot date, maybe that's why he came so late," Girochi said jokingly.

"That may be but that's no excuse for being late for something of this importance. Souma has one as well but at least he comes on time. He's been acting differently lately."

Sister Miyako sensed that it was something more than just a hot date is going on with Yukihito. While Girochi and Kazuki were still talking, Miyako quietly left the area and looked for a small quiet area. When she found it, she got on her knees while and bowed her head down. Then she started to pray, "Please God, let nothing happen to Tsubasa."


Back at her tent, Himeko was adding the final touches to her drawing of the girl in the locket. It was much smaller than the place she lived in Mahoroba but she was much happier. The tent inside was decorated with her drawings of anime characters, outdoor settings, famous people, and people that she considers to be friends. There were also photos that she shot hanging all over the tent. She had copies of anime magazines and art books she collected from the junkyard, which include her favorite manga, Battle Mikos. She also had a sleeping bag and a small drawer that contain among other thing her explicit drawings. While she was drawing, Himeko was having a reverie about her past.

She remembered the one time when she was only six that she drew a picture of Jesus for her Sunday school. It wasn't the best looking but it was much better than most of the other six-year olds drawings. Her aunt and uncle were impressed with her drawing, even congratulating her, something they haven't done much to her even at that age. From that day forward, she knew that drawing was her destiny. She continued to draw for her uncle's church, people were amazed at the drawings but she never received any credit for them because her relatives wouldn't allow anyone to know who drew them, nor did they allowed her to tell anyone that she did it. Eventually, they made her stop because they though she needed to focus on something else that they considered "more important" than that "nonsense" art stuff.

Then there were her art teachers throughout her school years. How all of them were amazed at her creative and artistic skills and many of them gave her the encouragement and care that she never received from her own relatives. They were the closest things to a loving parent that she ever had. She was in all the art clubs that were available in her schools. In those clubs she never said much, keeping to herself most of the time. Even though she was the most talented in the clubs she was never chosen to be the leader, but then again she never sought to be the leader thinking that she was too much of a screw up to ever become a leader. It also didn't help matters that some of the people in her club were jealous of her and others thought that she was too much of a loser and a wallflower to be around with.

However, her work was very impressive. Many of them were on display throughout the school. Her artistic talent did not lie only in drawings and photography, but she was a master in woodwork, weaving, sculpting, metals, jewelry making, sewing and knitting. Many of her pupils copied her drawings and bragged to others like it was theirs. She knew that other people were doing that but what could she do about it? She felt like it was a hopeless cause. She had won many awards and trophies for her artwork, which brought her some joy in her life, something to be proud of in her life. On the other hand, her relatives showed little interest in her winnings, one time her aunt complained about having all that "junk" on top of her dresser. Art was the only thing that gave her sanity in her life for all the beatings and bullying she endured. If it wasn't for art, she probably would have committed suicide.

Nevertheless, there was one art teach that stand out the most, Sensei Kuu Shiratori. She was the one who gave Himeko encouragement and support when most of the students and teachers thought that she was stupid. She was the one who fought for her to stay in the clubs since her aunt wanted to pull her out, feeling that she was wasting her time being in such a club. At that time, Himeko felt that she was the best thing to happen in her harsh life. She felt like she had a special bond with her, at that time she couldn't put that feeling in any other words. She sometimes stayed past the club hours to help out her art teacher or to chat with her about art-related stuff. That was until her aunt started to pick her up immediately after the club ended, she was getting tired of slapping her for coming home late.

One day when Himeko was helping her out, she stepped out of the classroom. While she was gone Himeko noticed a peculiar magazine on her desk. She went over the desk and picked it up. It was a magazine called Yuri Hime. When she opened it and looked at a few pages she was at first shocked to see some of the story and drawings. Girls loving girls? She was told that two girls loving each other were wrong, but yet somehow it very much appealed to her. Somehow that magazine opened up her eyes and asked a lingering question about herself that she couldn't answer before. She noticed that she always felt more comfortable around the girls than with boys.

When she heard all those girls talk on boys and who was the cutest, she couldn't understand why they found them attractive. During the shower room after gym she found herself looking and admiring some of the other girls' bodies. After reading that magazine, she realized that she is gay and that she has a crush on her teacher. Then again, another thought occurred in her mind, that text in Romans 1 that her uncle talked about a few times, saying that girls like that are dirty and will be burned in hell. Those words echoed in her mind and brought fear in her, even though that text doesn't clearly forbid lesbianism. In spite of this, many people in her church, including her uncle uses it to justify their beliefs that lesbianism is wrong and to bring fear on those who practice it.

When she got home, she immediately went straight to her room and cried. Then she prayed to Jesus about her "sickness."

"Why Jesus, why am I this way? Now I won't be able to go to heaven and be with you."

As she was crying on top of her bed the Bible fell off it. She heard the small thud and then she looked down at the floor. She picked up the Bible and noticed that the pages were opened to the chapter of Ruth. She dried her eyes and read it completely. She heard the story of Ruth and Naomi numerous times and read a good amount of it, but she never fully read the story until that day. After reading it, a smile was on her face. She got on her knees and thanked Jesus.

"That you Jesus, thank you very much for clearing my mind and my soul."

After snapping out of her reverie, she has a small smile on face, thanking God for bringing some sort of peace into her life. But something else came out of her mind, her former art teacher.

"I think I should send sensei a mail or at least an email when I get to that internet café, letting her know that I'm okay," She said to herself.

After she was done with the drawing she decided to go to the station and give it back to Chikane before it gets too dark. But before she left, she grabbed her camera. Who knows she thought, there might be some interesting things to take shots at along the way.


It took a while but Souma and Makoto finally got all the clothes sorted out in their respectable piles. It was quite an accomplishment given the time the needed to get it done and the amount of clothes scattered throughout the hallway.

"See what we can accomplish when work together as a team?" Makoto said with her usual enthusiasm.

"Yeah, especially when you have something to work for," He said followed by a seductive wink. It made Makoto blush a bit.

"Maybe you will get..." Mikoto said seductively. Little did they know that Sister Miyako was not too far away watching those two. Knowing full well that Sensei Kazuki would get upset if he catch them smooching at this time, she made herself noticed before their lips could lock.


As soon as they heard the sound they turned their heads to see Sister Miyako wearing a smirk. Their red faces showed their embarrassment of being caught red-handed.

"Oh, we sorry Sister Miyako-san. We didn't know that you were here."

"Hey, I have no problem with it."

"But you're a nun."

"I took a vow of celibacy, not a vow of intolerance. Anyways, I needed to speak to Souma about something very important."

"Do I need to leave the area, Sister Miyako-san?"

"No, Mako-san, you can stay put." Mikoto stated then she took a small breath and said, "I need to tell you that your brother Tsubasa escaped from the institution."

Souma was in shock when he heard that, "What! How did he escape? Has anything happen to him? Do you know where he is now?"

"I know it's a much of a shock to you as it is to me but all I know is that he's no longer in the mental institution." Miyako said as she noticed a tear was rolling down his face.

Him and Tsubasa were always close, before his schizophrenia makes him unstable. Makoto could see the worry on his face and tried her best to comfort him. She never met Tsubasa but from her conversations with Souma she knew how important his brother is to him. Miyako came up to Souma and put her hand on his back.

"Look, Souma-san, I care for Tsubasa as much as you do. The best thing to do right now is to pray to the gods that he will be okay and let them take care of him," She said to him, even though they were of two totally different religions, she still respected his.

Girochi and Yukihito came in moments later to help pick up the clothes. They saw Souma in tears with Makoto holding him but they knew very well why.

"So, you finally told him?" Yukihito said. He was told earlier by Girochi.

"Yeah, and he's very concern for his safety."

"What about you onee-chan?" Girochi said, not beating around the bush.

"I am very much as well. I sure am."


Nekoko and the homeless guy decided to head to his tent to discuss about the Snake Clan's plan of attack and how to stop it. When they finally got there they went straight to business.

"I heard from the young one, Mazuki-san, while playing a game of mahjong with him that they got word that your next performance was going to be near the station. The other two will get out of the hospital tomorrow. They were planning to get together with another clan to crash your circus and take your money, and then they were planning to take Himeko if she was there and finally get their way with her. Plus they also plan to have their revenge at Miya-sama as well after the ass kicking she gave them."


"A nickname Corona-san gave to Chikane-san since she acts like a spoiled princess."

"Oh, and that's coming from a delusional delinquent." That made Nekoko and the guy chuckle a bit but then she returned back to being mad as hell.

"So, they want play hardball? Well the cats and me have no problem with that. I know where they're located and I'm gonna show them why I'm the leader of the park, nya."

"Along with Hana's girls, I can get some of my gang to make sure nothing goes wrong with your circus."

Nekoko appreciated the offer but she knew him too well to know that he not that gracious. "What is it that you want out of this?"

"A free meal for us at the Lucky Dragon Café near the station."

"The Lucky Dragon Café?! Who do you think I am, Bill Gates? I barely have enough money for myself."

"OK, how about Hideo's Café in Golden Gai?"

"OK, that's doable." Hideo's café is not a cheap place but it's much cheaper than the Lucky Dragon Café. They're one of a few places around that accepts homeless people.

"Well that's sounds good. I'm going to play another game of Mahjong with him tonight, if I hear anymore I'll let you know."

"Please do so, I don't want them to cause any more trouble then they already have."


Himeko finally arrived at the station and started to look for Chikane. It took her a while to get there because she was too busy taking pictures of the city during her walk. Even though it's her second time being there the place feels very intimidating to her with all the people around her. It took her about thirty minutes to finally spot Chikane. She was sitting on top of a cardboard sulking. She was clearly not in a happy mood. Himeko was very afraid to approach her but she also knew that she had to return her the locket.

She gave a quick and silent prayer to Jesus asking him to give her strength. Then, with her heart beating hard she slowly went up to Chikane, who was still fouled from her altercation with Corona. She was about a few feet away from her and was about to give her back the locket but Chikane went off on her immediately.

"What is it that you want this time, huh!? What did I tell you about being out here by yourself without a weapon!? Are you some sort of baka!?"

While Chikane was shouting her mouth off, Himkeo quietly pulled out the locket from her pants pocket and displayed it to Chikane. She immediately shut her mouth and didn't say anything for a while.

"My necklace, where did you find it."

"I-I found it at the counter where we were eating at earlier today," She said timidly.

"Why... arigato, Himeko-san," She said followed by a firm hug given to Himeko. Himeko's face turned red, partly because of how tight the hug was but also because how much she liked her touch. Chikane felt so warm even through her cold exterior. As much as that hug was nearly suffocating her she didn't want her to let go.

"Dou itashimashite, Chikane-san," Himeko said while trying to hide her blushing red face. Chikane saw how red her face was but she thought it was because she hugged her tight. "Well, I got to get back. I'll see you later."

Just as soon as she turned around Chikane called out for her.

"Himeko-chan, wait!"

Himeko turned around in surprise, surprised that she called her ‘Himeko-chan'."

"Let me take you back to your place. It's starting to get dark and I don't want anything else happening to you again."

That left a big smile on Himeko's face.


[End notes:   Author Note: I would like to thank my beta readers Fears Unspoken, lildevilish, and L337_Ninja_Girl for their contributions to this story.]

Chapter 6

Title: The Showdown

[Author's notes:

Japanese Terminology:

The Best Kid - That's how the Japanese called the move The Karate Kid.

Sentou - (Wikipedia) is a type of Japanese communal bath house where customers pay for entrance.

Chapter Note - I would like to thank L337_Ninja_Girl for beta reading my story.


Only a few minutes ago, Chikane was mad at the world for loosing her locket, now she's elated to have her locket back, all thanks to Himeko. Just to show her appreciation to Himeko, she decided to walk her back to her tent. Himeko happily took the offer, seeing it as a way to get to know her better. Just as soon as they got out of the very huge and very crowded train station, Chikane brought up something to Himeko.

"Look, if you're going to hang around me, then you got to toughen up, because right now, I'm a walking bull's eye with you around me. This is the rough streets of Tokyo, the side that you'll never see on a postcard. Triads, Yakuzas, drunks, shady businessmen, con-artists, and African and Brazilian drug dealers are all around here. You got that?"

Himeko said timidly, "Y-yes, Chikane-san." Deep down, Himeko was really scared since she didn't think she could never be tough and that no matter what she does, she will always disappoint Chikane.

"The first thing I'm going to teach you is defense. In order to survive in the streets you got to have a good defense, no, a great defense. Meet me at the station tomorrow around 11:00."

"OK, Chikane-san." Himeko said like a child.

"That's another thing. Not only do you look soft, you sound soft. That's going to change as well. Well you start hanging around with me you're going to sound like a real woman, not some little girl trapped in a teenage body. You got it?"

"I got it." Himeko said with her normal soft and high-pitched voice. Chikane gave her that look and Himeko knew that she had to correct herself. "I mean, I got it." She said with an exaggerated deep voice. Chikane didn't say anything while they were on the crosswalk heading to the park but in her mind she said, "I got a lot of work ahead of me."
Chikane kept on lecturing Himeko, "Also, you gonna need to make some money. Nekoko can't support you forever and she won't. She's not really the motherly type, that's why she has cats and not dogs. I'm also willing to show you how to make some money around here but not only you got to be tough, you also got to be smart and you got to be quick, understand?"

Himeko nodded her head in agreement. Then she asked curiously, "Where in Mahoroba are you from? I know that you come from an orphanage since I heard the Snake clan call you a ‘koji girl' but which one over there?"

Chikane hesitated a bit to answer the question. She didn't want her to know that she came from that infamous reformatory/orphanage in southern Mahoroba, it might scare her away, even though she look naïve enough to not know about the place. For some reason, she didn't want her to leave her so she couldn't take that chance. Instead she told her the other orphanage in western Mahoroba.

"I'm from St. Fuukino's orphanage at Saimachi." Saimachi is a section of western Mahoroba known to the locals as the "wealthy district." That orphanage is well known and well respected.

"Oh really?"

"Yeah, but there was nothing special about the place, it's just your typical orphanage." Chikane said trying to sound indifferent but her body language said something else and Himeko saw it.

"OK." Himeko said in her usual soft tone. She didn't bring it up but she could tell that Chikane didn't have pleasant memories of her orphanage. Not feeling comfortable about the subject, Chikane quickly changed it.

"It sounds like religion plays a big part of your life, Himeko-san."

"It really does. My relatives run a church."

Chikane had a feeling that Himeko belonged to a very strict religion. "So what religion do you belong to?"

"We're Pentecostals."

When she said that Chikane immediately thought in her head, "Oh God...", pun intended.
"No wonder why this girl is really sheltered and messed up. Her relatives basically controlled her." Of course she didn't say that to her, however she did ask another question. "So, how big is your oji-san's church?"

"That big," As Himeko said pointing out his appearance on a large High Definition TV screen displayed at the front of an appliance store that Himeko and Chikane was walking by. Pastor Kyoshiro Ayanokouji is a well-known televangelist in Japan. He was on TV doing his usual spiel on how you can be saved by donating to his church. He was the most well known Pentecostal pastor in Japan who had converted over 2 million Japanese ‘heathens' in his life. Chikane was shocked to see who her relatives were. She never would have imagined that Himeko relatives were rich, now her sheltered life made more sense.

"You're kidding, right?"

"Nope," as she pulled out an old small photo of her and her relatives from her dirty pair of pants. Chikane was even more stunned that she wasn't lying. She wouldn't think that Himeko was the lying type but she wasn't fully convinced until she saw the photo.

"Wow, your relatives must be very rich, why would you want to run away from your home?"

Himeko quickly reverted back to her shy and timid persona, and was hesitant to talk about it.


Chikane saw the pain in her face so she simply told her she didn't have to tell her. Somehow she sensed Himeko ran away for the same reasons she did.

"Look, Himeko-san, you don't have to tell me now, you can tell me when you're ready."

"Okay, arigato, Chikane-san."

"No problem," She said and Chikane watched Himeko's uncle show for a bit, thinking to herself "yet another religious huckster," then they continued on to Himeko's place.

"So what about you, do you belong to any religion?"

"I belong to no religion whatsoever, even though I grew up in a Catholic orphanage. I don't want to have anything to do with God, religion, or anything of that sort. And I don't want anyone to enforce it on me, understood?" Chikane said tersely. It was even more evident to Himeko that something really did happen during her time at the orphanage.

"Yes, Chikane-san. I will never try to preach or convert you."


"Yes, it doesn't really matter if you are a Christian or not. What really matters is how we can change other people lives for the better." If only Himeko had the confidence to believe those words in her heart.

Those words left a small smile on Chikane's face. "Well, that's good to hear a Christian that has an open mind and an open heart."

Along the way, Himeko spotted the famous ‘LOVE' sculpture. It's a big red sculpture that says the English word ‘love'. She thought that it would be perfect to take a picture of it with her and Chikane together, so she brought it up to Chikane.

"Hey Chikane-san, isn't that the LOVE sculpture?"

"Yep, it sure is. I really don't understand what's with Japan's fascination of Western things. I mean come on now, this ain't Philadelphia!" Chikane was referring to how similar the sculpture was to the one in Philadelphia.

"I really like the aesthetics of it, even though it's very similar to the one in Philadelphia. Also, I think love is a universal thing, it's not just a Western thing. The message of love is universal, no matter what language you use to say it." She concluded. Chikane got a rare look at Himeko's hidden intellectual side, a side that some people ignorantly say doesn't exist. "Would you like to take a picture of it with us together?"

At first Chikane was shocked that Himeko would think such a thing, it could be sending out the wrong message, but then she realized that Himeko meant it in an innocent matter. Thus, she didn't see any harm in it and she happily agreed to participate. "Okay, that's fine with me, but who's going to take the picture?"

"I'll get someone to take it." So Himeko found a passerby and asked her to take the picture with them together. Like Chikane, she was at first stunned but she too realized the nature and then agreed to take it. With the sculpture in the background, Himeko and Chikane posed for the picture. She had her arms unconsciously around Chikane's waist. Chikane was surprised by her action and was about to protest but she saw how happy she was. The woman noticed as well but she still took it. Himeko stuck out the peace sign while wearing a genuine smile on her face, while Chikane just had a regular smile on her face. Himeko was surprised and glad to see Chikane smiling for once. The woman took the picture and was about to returned the camera back to Himeko, but she asked to take another picture, so she did. She finally returned the camera back to Himeko and quickly left the area. Himeko couldn't understand why she would do such a think but Chikane knew full well. Seeing how happy she was, Chikane couldn't tell her why. She asked Himeko a question while looking at her camera.

"Is that an old camera?"

"Yes, it's a good quality one, but it's not digital."

"So you have to take the roll to a photo shop?"

"Yes, it might take a few days before I get it back. The good thing is that Bic Camera has a discount going on for processing roles."

"Okay, when you have it, can I have one for myself?"

"Of course, Chikane-san. I wasn't planning to keep the picture for myself."

"Arigato, Hime-san," she thanked her sincerely.

"Dou itashimashite, Chikane-san," Himeko responded back in kindness.

"Come on, Himeko, it's getting rather late and I don't want Nekoko to get a heart attack over you. I'll hear it to no end from her."

Himeko nodded in agreement and so they went straight to the park. As soon as they got to the tent, Nekoko was waiting there. Chikane rolled her eyes in grief, thinking that some drama is about to happen.

"There you are, Hime-chan, and why is Chikane-san with you?"

"I went to see her so that I can return her necklace to her."

"Yeah, Neko-san, she can do things for herself you know."

Nekoko was starting to steam up but knowing that Himeko is around she quickly calmed herself down and told her some important news.

"Yes, I know Himeko is not a child, so stop patronizing me. Before you open your big mouth, Chikane-san, I got important news to tell both of you. The Snake Çlan is regrouping and they are planning to not only attack my circus but also to get both of you as well. This time they got another gang who is very willing to help them out. I'd had issues with the group in the past since they wanted to be the leaders of the park and now they're using this opportunity to take over. They plan to attack in about three days from now, when I will have my performance near the station. They don't know that I know about the attack, and I would like to keep it that way."

Chikane wasn't surprised that the Snake Clan are planning to retaliate against her and she wasn't surprised that they would get some outside help. Nekoko does have her share of enemies. Nevertheless, it puzzled her a bit that Nekoko would ask her for help.

"So why are you asking for my help?"

"Because I know that you're a good fighter and that you will be a significant contribution to putting an end to the Snake Clan. You're as much of a mark target as we are. You know the Snake Clan isn't the only gang that wants to kick your ass, especially with all the shit you've done since you've been here."

"We to be honest with you Neko-san, I'll be more than happy to help you kick their asses. There's nothing more in this world I would enjoy than to give those perverts the ass-whipping they deserve, but who is going to help us out as well? There won't be enough of us to take care of all of them." Chikane asked with an unsure look on her face.

"Hana and the girls plus Natashi and his gang will back us up. They will be there to help protect us."

Chikane knew very well that it still wasn't enough but she couldn't pass up an opportunity to beat the hell out of those raping perverts. This was a hidden personal agenda of hers. She really wanted to teach those creeps a lesson, so she reluctantly agreed.

"Well I don't have much of a choice since I'm going to train Himeko."

"Train Hime-chan? In what?"

"In fighting. Can you defend her all the time? Will you watch her 24/7? Can you spare enough time to train her and train your cats as well? I already know the answers to those questions, furball."

Nekoko really wanted to smack Chikane but she also knew that Chikane is right.

"OK, I get your point! But you can't force Hime-chan to be trained unless she wants to. Hime-chan, do you want to be trained?"

Himeko nodded her head positively without any hesitation. Nekoko didn't know what to make out of this, something deep inside of her sensing that Himeko has already started to grow fond of Chikane.

"OK, then you can go ahead and train Hime-chan," Nekoko said with some reluctance. "However, if you harm Himeko-chan in any way, I will come after you like a tiger. You got that, nya?"

Chikane looked at her dead in eye without any sort of flinching and said, "I fully get it. I will not harm her at all."

"Good, as long as we actually agree on something, for once. Now then, the performance will be at 12:00 three days from now. It's happening around lunch break so there will be a lot of people there, understood?"

"Understood very well, Neko-san."

"Now let's get inside Hime-chan."

Himeko immediately obeyed and said, "Okay, Neko-chan."

As Himeko followed her to the tent Chikane said "See you tomorrow, Hime-chan!".

"See you tomorrow!" Himeko turned around and smiled back as she waived to her. She didn't head inside Nekoko's tent until Chikane was totally out of her sight. In her mind she was thinking why Chikane was so passionate about ‘teaching' the Snake Clan a lesson. Did something like that happen to her in the past? Finally, she head inside and asked her about the showdown.

As soon as she got inside, Nekoko address a few things to her.

"Hime-chan, I don't like it one bit that Chikane-san is training you, but it would be the best thing for you. Nevertheless, that's as far as you want to associate with her, she cannot be trusted one bit."

"I understand, Neko-chan."

"You only have a short amount of time to get yourself prepared so learn as much as you can. We need to show those bastards who's boss around here."

"OK," Himeko said softly. In spite of this, Himeko was sensing this wasn't the right way to go about this. What if the Snake Clan knew about Nekoko's plan and has a counter-plan in return? What if the Snake Clan has a stronger backup than what Nekoko thought? Then they would all be in big trouble. But the biggest concern was that a lot of people, especially innocent bystanders, could get hurt. Himeko really didn't want to see anybody get hurt, so she brought up another solution.

"Why don't we get the cops to help us on this?"

"Are you crazy!" Nekoko exasperated. "I knew you were rather naïve but I didn't think that you were that naïve. Of course not! The cops don't care about us one bit, so they won't help us. And second of all, if they do ‘help' us, they would probably use the opportunity to arrest us. After all, we're not even considered human."

"How do you know they would do that? Isn't there another way?"

"Cause Himeko, I've been out here for over ten years and the police haven't change much since I've been here. There are a few like Officer Girochi-san who does care but the rest of them don't care about us. To them we're nothing more than worthless trash that brings down the society and raises taxpayer's money. As for another way, there is no other way. It's simply us vs. them and the only way to settle it is to go head-to-head with them. You got to understand that there are certain things that can only be solved through confrontation. This ain't no kiddie game."

"OK," Himeko obeyed, but deep inside her thought she couldn't get it out of her mind how violent it could be and how much harm and damage it could cause. Her thoughts were especially focused on the innocent bystanders. So Himeko went back to her tent and continued on her drawings, but those thoughts never left her mind.


While at the clothes run, Hana was waiting in the line when he saw a beautiful pink scarf on a table, hoping that no one would pick it up. He came here to pick up some old clothes for the fight. It was by chance that he saw the scarf. There was only one woman in front of him so he had that going for him. As the lady reached the table, she looked at the scarf but decided not to pick it up. It left a smile on his face. When he got to the table, Sister Miyako appeared.

"I thought you might like it."

"Well thank you darling. You have such great taste."

"Well I learn from the best."

Hana smiled in return. "So how are things going at the cathedral?" The cathedral he's referring to was St. Teresa, which is only two blocks away from the Sun and Moon temple.

"Quite fine, been busy as usual."

"Well that's good, but there's something I want to tell you for a long time."

"What is it, Hana-chan?"

"I want to thank you for defending me at St. Teresa's the other day." About a month ago a new priest took over the church and made sweeping changes. Part of the sweeping change includes ‘converting' or getting rid of the people that didn't fit the church ‘image', and surely Hana was considered one of those people. Sister Miyako strongly objected to many of those changes, especially with those that didn't fit the image and she made it known throughout the church.

"No problem. You are my friend and a huge contribution to the church and to everybody around you, especially in the choir. Because of that, I would like for you to come back."

"You know I can't go back there. They don't accept my type, after Father made an example out of me in front of the congregation."

"Look, Hana-chan. We really need people like you to stand up to him. The reason why he's getting away with his agenda is because instead of taking him on, everybody's running away. Nobody's standing up for what they believe in." She had fought the priest on numerous occasions and because of it she her role in the church reduced. Now, there are plans to oust her from the church altogether.

"Nah, I'll just find another church that will accept me."

"And then what happens if that church turned out just like St. Teresa's? Are you going to run to another church? Change will never happen if you don't take a stand for what you're committed to."

That gave Hana something to think about. "You're right, Sister Miyako-san."

Miyako just smiled and said, "Now can I expect to see you next Sunday?"

Hana's body tensed a bit when he heard that. He knew that Sister Miyako can be unreasonable at times but that one really got him.

"Yes, I will be there, and early too!"

"Around what time?"

Sister Miyako wasn't going to let Hana slide out of this one and he knew it so he told her the time.

"I will be there at 9 am, when the service starts."

"Good, I look forward to seeing you there."

After the conversation, Miyako noticed that Hana was carrying something unusual, well unusual for Hana's standards.

"What are you doing with that old, worn-out coat?"

"Well, I'm planning to redecorate my place, and I don't want to use my clean clothes so I need to wear something that I wouldn't mind messing up, yeah." He said with some nervousness in his voice. He sure didn't want her to know about the upcoming showdown. Miyako saw it very well that he was hiding something. "Well I got to run, I'll catch up with you later," He said before she can get more out of him.

Miyako knew that Hana wouldn't want to be caught dead wearing worn-out clothes and she also knew there was something else going on. She thought to herself, "Something is going on here and I need to find out fast."


The following day, it was 10:45 am and Himeko came earlier because she was excited about the training. In her mind she was thinking she will finally be like Himiko of Battle Mikos, shy and weak but eventually become strong and powerful. Chikane then took her to the alley to the alley where she cried the other day. It was a perfect place since not a lot of people come there. Himeko was wearing a long-sleeve shirt with some loose pants. It caught Chikane's attention since it was not proper attire.

"I hope you brought a T-shirt with you. It's a little bit cold right now, but eventually you will get hot and sweaty and that long-sleeve shirt won't help you."

"No, I didn't bring a T-shirt, but I'll be fine," Himeko said with assurance.

Chikane gave in reluctantly and said, "Well then, welcome to your first day of training. The first thing I will teach you is defense. Defense is critical in fighting, more so than offense because defense is the one thing that will determine whether you live or not. And since we only have two days before our meeting with the Snake Clan, I want your full and undivided attention. You got that?"

"Hai! So sensei, are you going to teach me ‘wax on, wax off'?" Himeko said jokingly with her arms doing the waxing motion that Mr. Miyagi showed to Daniel in The Karate Kid. Chikane just smacked her hand on her forehead in disbelief.

"No, Daniel-san," Chikane said sarcastically. "My name is not Miyagi-sensei and this ain't The Best Kid. This is real life, girl, so stop kidding around. Before you can do any defensive techniques you will need to learn the proper stance, because your defense and offense will not work if you do not have solid footing. Can you imagine doing the Crane Kick without solid footing?"

"You mean like this?" As she foolishly attempt to emulate the Crane Kick like how Daniel did in the movie. Due to her natural clumsiness, she lost her balance and fell on her right side on the asphalt and then started to cry.

Chikane shook her head in disbelief and thought to herself, Oh my, this is going to be a loooooonnnnnng day.


The training was over and it was an intense three hours. Himeko was sore and her forearms and thighs were hurting and had red marks all over them even though she was fully clothed. Her shirt was drenched with her and Chikane's sweat. Chikane pleaded with her many times throughout the training to take her shirt off. She even offered to give her an extra T-shirt, but Himeko refused. She was also sad because she didn't do as well as she thought. She really thought she disappointed Chikane since she heard her cussing under her breath many times. Chikane saw the disappointment on her face and was about to tell her to stop it, but then she realized that she would make the situation worse. Instead, she went against her nature and offered her some words of encouragement.

"Look, Hime-san, you won't be an expert overnight. It took me years to get to where I at, so don't beat yourself up on this, okay?"

"I understand, sensei, but I want to get it right by the time the day comes." Himeko said with the matching disappointment in her voice.

"Look, you're in a better position than you were three hours ago. You got two of the basic blocking techniques down and we will work on the rest tomorrow. So don't get so worked up over it. Remember what I told you, the best way to defend is to be loose and flexible. Worrying and stress will bring the exact opposite. Besides, they can't do any worse to you than they already have done. At least this time you have better backup."

Himeko nodded in acknowledgment. "Yes, I fully understand, sensei."

"Hey, Hime-san, I know that you are sore but I know this wonderful sentou where they get their water from a hot spring and they have some great Jacuzzis and saunas."

Himeko immediately panicked and said, "No thank you!"

"But it would help relax and heal your muscles."

"Thanks, but no thanks. I'll just make due. I'll see you later tomorrow," And she quickly walk away. Chikane couldn't understand why she would be so afraid to go to a spa.

How Himeko usually washed herself is that she either went to the sentou near the park during the late hours when nobody else is around, and that's if she had the money to afford it, or scoop up some of the water from the pond and wash herself in the tent. She can't let Chikane see her scars.

Himeko couldn't get enough sleep since there were many things spinning in her head. One of them was how much of a failure she was to Chikane during the training. She thought anybody else who wasn't as weak and as soft as she was would have done better. That inner voice of hers kept on telling her, "Why are you wasting your time on this? They will skill kick your butt no matter what."

The other important matter in her mind was about the showdown. She knew deep in her heart that there had to be a better way to deal with them without resorting to confrontation. She didn't want to see anybody getting hurt over this.

With all that going on in her head, she barely got any sleep. When she woke up it was 10:20 in the morning. She quickly panicked and got herself dressed. She ran all the way to the station and she barely made it on time.

The training went a little bit different this time, as Chikane realized how uncoordinated Himeko was, so she made that the main focus. She also knew that Himeko was tense, so before the training, she had her do some meditation techniques and throughout the training she had her do some deep breathing. By the time the training was over, she was sore as usual, but that didn't matter. Even with all the techniques and meditation she was doing, the upcoming confrontation was still in her mind. She knew she had to do something about it. She had to talk to someone about it.

So she went to St. Teresa and asked for Sister Miyako. The secretary called her up and when she finally arrived she saw the concern on Himeko's face. She knew that Himeko has something very important to tell her.

"Hey, Himeko-san, what are you doing here?"

Himeko was clearly nervous but she knew that she had to do this. She thought it was the right thing to do. So, she swallowed her throat and said, "Sister Miyako, I need to talk to you about something."


Today was the day. It was basically the day of reckoning for everybody.

Himeko was able to get some good rest for once, thinking that she did the right thing. Nekoko on the other hand, didn't get much sleep. She stayed up late training her cats to attack when she gave the command. After they woke up, she and Nekoko went to the Salvation Army homeless shelter and got some breakfast. They didn't say anything at all; they just quietly ate their food. Then they went back to pick up the cats and the props and to wait for Natashi and his crew. It was better that way just in case if the Snake Clan jumped them on their way. As soon as they arrived, they headed to the station. All this time Himeko was thinking in her head, "I hope this works." But her inner voice was telling her, "Nope, it will fail just like everything else you do in your life."

Chikane woke up earlier than usual. Corona was up before her and she knew what was going on so she decided not to bother Chikane, this time. She made sure her tanto was sharp and clean the night before, though she naturally prefers hand-to-hand combat. Chikane was up in knots about this and she knew that wasn't a good thing, so she did some deep meditations in a hidden corner of the station before going outside to where Nekoko was going to hold her performance.

Hana was geared-ready for the confrontation. He was wearing the worn-out coat with the rest of his worn-out clothing. He didn't want to wear anything good, it's very difficult to remove blood stains! Ironically enough, he still had to put on some makeup. He was naturally vain, you know... He also had the necessary weapons for the upcoming melee. Inside his purse was a pair of brass knuckles! He was waiting for the rest of the girls to meet up and head over there. As soon as they arrived they headed straight to the station. Hana wanted to finally put an end to the Snake Clan.


It was 11:30 am when Himeko, Nekoko, Natashi, and the rest of the crew arrived near the station. Chikane was already there since she didn't have to go too far. As soon as they met Nekoko and Chikane gave each other cold stares but Himeko broke the tension-filled atmosphere with her cheerful greeting.

"Ohayo, Chikane-san, how are you doing."

"Fine, I can't wait to smash the Snake Clan's skulls! That should put an end to those mother-fucking rapists. How are you doing?"

Himeko was taken a bit by Chikane's anger. She responde back nervously "I'm fine too. I think I'm ready to face them."

"Well, that's good to hear. Now do you want me to help you out with the props?"

"Sure! It would make things go faster."

Chikane's offer for help caught Nekoko by surprise as she was noticing the interaction between the two and felt some sort of discomfort about it. But she felt that it wasn't a big deal as this moment so she just started to get the cats ready. There were still some tension in the air until Natashi greeted Chikane, in a very cynical way.

"Well if it isn't none other than the great Miya-sama. Allow this humble servant to bow in your great honor," He said with a mocking tone. As soon as he fully bowed down Chikane smacked him in the back of his head. "OUCH! Why the hell did you do that?" He said while laying one of his hands on the back of his head.

"Consider yourself knighted, sir." Chikane dryly noted. Everyone laughed at the spectacle, even Nekoko found it humorous. Eventually, everybody got back to their respectable jobs and continued on. About three minutes before noon, everything was set and the show began. The show went fine for ten minutes. Everybody was still on their guard and there were no signs of the Snake Clan until during the cats jumping through hoops performance. Not far from the block were the three villains who wanted revenge. They were accompanied by five other men from the other clan..

The Snake Clan's leader was Gin, a stocky and gruff middle-aged man who has a wife and a daughter but left them after his gambling debts skyrocketed. On his left was the young Mazuki, who is in his early twenties and was abandoned by his family because he didn't live up to their expectations. And on his right was the elder yet strong Yasuo, who was beyond 60, in fact he was pushing 90. He once served for the Imperial Army and took part of the 1937 Nanking Massacre and had fought many battles in World War II, so he's no stranger to bloodshed, fighting, and cruelty.

As they approach the area, Nekoko, Chikane, Hana and the girls, and Natashi and his crew took their guard nonchalantly, trying not to get the clan's attention. Himeko was standing behind Chikane in fear. When they finally got to the area Gin spoke directly to Nekoko.

"Alright, kitty cat, the show's over, cause we're here to crash it!" The audience were confused since they didn't know what was going on. Then Gin had a scowling look on his face when he saw Chikane. "I see that Miya-sama is here as well, that means we can finally teach that fucking cunt a lesson." At that moment, curiosity struck when he saw a small patch of wheat-colored hair behind her. "And who is that behind you?"

Chikane finally noticed that Himeko was behind her with her hands on Chikane's waist and was shaking nervously. Chikane whispered, "Remember what I told you Hime-san? Be tough!"

So Himeko came out from behind Chikane and tried to put on her tough face while being on her defensive stance. Gin and the others weren't buying it.

"Well, well. It's that little sweet cake, Himeko. When we're done whipping those two," pointing to Nekoko and Chikane, "We will take good care of you, and Chikane too." He said followed by a sickening kissing gesture and a sinister smile. That rattled Himeko a bit and it made Chikane's skin crawl. Now she really wanted to smash his face.

"You better think again, Gin-san." Hana said with his girls and Natashi and his gang revealing their weapons. "We knew about your plan for a while back so we came along to put an end to it," He said heroically. What he didn't know was that he spoke too soon, for they and everybody else would be taken by surprised from the Snake Clan's following actions.

Gin and the rest of the villains just laughed. Nekoko and the rest of them didn't know what to make out of it, until Gin spoke again.

"So you think you guys have the upper hand? Well, guess what okama? Take a look around you." As they look they saw other men coming from all corners of the area. They were carrying an assortment of weapons. It was clear that they were going to finish them off. Some of the audiences started to flee, fearing the violent melee that was about to occur. "It was all a setup. We knew that Natashi-san was a weasel that was loyal to Nekoko, so we had Mazuki tell him that it was just one clan. We happened to find a lot more people who were disgruntled with Nekoko and the way she ran things at the park, so they were more than happy to join us," Gin said with a sadistic smug on his face.

Hana spoke up and said, "We are not going down without a fight."

"Well if that's how you want then so be it, okama. I'll be more than happy to kick your dicksucking gay ass. It's time for you all to meet your fate, attack!" But before they could do anything a loud voice came from the background.

"This is the police, you and the rest of the punks are all under arrest!" The voice came from Girochi as him and his squad was only a few feet away from the area. Apparently, they were hiding all that time. When Himeko met Sister Miyako, she told her about the upcoming confrontation and Sister Miyako told her brother about it.

Even thought there were far more of them than the police, the villains panicked and started to run. Conversely, some of Natashi's men, who had some past troubles with the law, started to run as well and then the rest of the audience started to panic. This caused quite a bit of chaos in the area, the cops couldn't tell who was what. They were able to arrest the three members of the Snake Clan and a few other villains, but they also accidentally arrested two of Natashi's men and two of Hana's girls, plus they accidentally arrested a few of the audiences whom they mistaken for the villains. Himeko's plan of having a peaceful resolution to the confrontation backfired very badly and she knew it.

After all the commotion died down, Nekoko was furious and she knew who was behind this. She looked at the frightened and extremely shaken Himeko with raging anger.


Chapter 7

Title: Everday I'm Hustlin'

[Author's notes:

Japanese Terminology:


Melds – A set of matching tiles in Mahjong.


Genso – Japanese artist Okuda Genso. Was a famous artist during his time (1912-2003).


Things were not easy at Hana's place as everybody headed back there after the confrontation that turned out disastrous. Nekoko was furious with Himeko and she wasn't going to hid it one bit.

"WHAT THE HELL, HIMEKO-CHAN!?!" Nekoko screamed at her. "I told you not to tell the fucking cops about this and you still went and did it!"

"I really thought that the police will put an end to it peacefully. I didn't want to see anybody get hurt." Himeko said while sobbing.

"Nobody did get hurt, but we also got many people in jail who shouldn't be there. And we don't have any bail money to get them out. I don't even want to imagine what they're doing to Hana's girls over there."

"You should be asking what MY girls are doing to them over there..." Hana said ruefully. That got a surprised look from everyone, especially Nekoko, but she continued on with her maddening fury.

"We could have ended the Snake Clan and the rest of those goons right there but guess what? The cops are going to either let them go or give them a light sentence as an exhibit for their ‘hard work' and then let them go. Either way, they'll get off easy and they'll come after us to get their revenge. Think about that Himeko!" She yelled to Himeko, looking like here eyes were about to pop out. Himeko was sobbing more than ever.

Chikane has heard enough from Nekoko's big mouth. Her squeaky voice was getting on her, and it sounded even worse when she's mad. She was thinking that Nekoko must have been crazy to think they had a chance to finally put it to the end, so she spoke up after Nekoko finished her tirade. "Nekoko have you been smoking crack? Are you on meth? Did you see how many of them were out there? We were seriously outnumbered. There was no way that we could have taken them all on. You should thank Himeko-san because it could have been worse!" Chikane argued back with the same intensity. "Don't you get it? We were outnumbered Neko-san. We could have been seriously injured. In fact, some of us here could have been dead. The crowd could have been injured and dead as well. At least the police got all the thugs that were involved."

Nekoko was surprised at Chikane's defense for Himeko and at the same time upset about it. She looked at Chikane with spite and chaffed, "Well, since when you have been on Hime-chan's side? After all, you've called her ‘cream puff' a million times behind her back." Himeko looked at her to see if it was true. Chikane didn't say anything but she didn't have to. Her eyes gave Himeko the answer.

"Ever since when she made the wise decision that saved our asses from what could have been an even worse catastrophic disaster. The situation could have been prevented if Natashi and his men didn't over panic," she said as she gave them an icy glare.

Natashi didn't take Chikane's accusation lightly and made his protest very clear, "Hey! Some of my men had criminal records, so they had a reason to panic," Natashi defended.

"But they could have still act calm during the situation, just like what Hana's girls did. I'm sure the policemen knew that they were not part of the gang, after all, they didn't arrest the rest of us," Chikane retorted.

Before Natashi was going to protest again, Hana stepped in and supported Chikane. "She's right. Things could have happen differently if some of us didn't overreact. I know Neko-chan really cares about her circus but if the confrontation went off as planned, the circus' reputation would have been permanently damaged." Hana stated.

Nekoko was stunned that her best friend would actually support Chikane. "I can't believe this. You're siding with this delinquent as well?"

"Yes, I am because that ‘delinquent' is right. I know you like to show yourself as an effective leader that's not afraid of any challenge but in this case it would have been disastrous. I probably would have done the same thing and told Himeko not to tell the police, but it turns out that she made the right choice," he said as he swallowed his pride. That gave Himeko a bit of relief.

Unfortunately, Nekoko couldn't swallow her own pride. She couldn't believe what was going on. She felt like they were ganging up on her when they shouldn't be, after all she's the leader she figured. Before things got worse for her she said, "Ok fine, you can agree with her all you want, but wait until they come back with stronger reinforcement. There's no point in this argument so I'm heading back to my tent!" Nekoko finally stated and she stormed back to her tent.

After she disappeared from sight Hana noted "I swear, that woman can be stubborn like a mule."

"Or stubborn like a cat," Chikane noted, she couldn't resist putting that pun in. Himeko was still in tears, so Chikane came up to her and offered her shoulder to cry onto. Himeko immediately grabbed her and cried her heart out on her shoulders. For Chikane, Himeko's hysterical state was starting to put other ideas into her head. "She's so soft and nice, like how my old love used to be. What am I thinking? She may not be gay and she's in a vulnerable state now."

Himeko on the other hand enjoyed Chikane's rare moment of compassion. She didn't want to let go, so she held her tighter. Hana and the others were shocked that Chikane was actually being compassionate to somebody, but it gave off a lot of signals on his ‘gaydar'. He already suspected that Himeko was gay based on the time he visited her tent, seeing all the drawings, photos, and mangas she had in there. He already knew that Chikane was gay since she told him herself. Eventually, he smiled, seeing that those two would be a good couple.

Chikane eventually spoke up to Himeko. "Look Himeko, you need to get your mind off of this. The day is still young, so let's leave here and go around the city." Hana added further support to Chikane's words, "I agree darling, and it would do a world of a good for you."

Himeko stopped her crying, but she was still sniffling. "Okay Chikane-san, where are we going?"

"Anywhere really, just follow me."

"Okay," Himeko said simply. But before they left Hana had a small word for Chikane

"If you harm the girl, I will -"

Chikane just blew it off and said, "I'm not going to hurt her in any way."

And so they left to explore the wonderful urban jungle of Tokyo.


For their first destination they took a subway from Shinjuku station to Ikebukuro station. Ikebukuro is a downtown area located in the Tomida ward, north of Shinjuku. Just like Shinjuku, Ikebukuro has a lot of stores and activities and their share of the homeless.

While looking through the window, Himeko asked, "Where are we going Chikane-san?"

"We are going to a pool hall. Today, I'm going to show you how to really make some money," Chikane said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"But I don't know how to play pool, and I was always told by my oji-san that gambling was wrong."

"And so is dishonesty, but your oji-san has no problem lying to people, telling them they can be saved if they donate their money to his church." Chikane countered. "Hime-san, if you want to make money here in Tokyo, you've got to hustle."

"But I don't know how to hustle? What if I fail? What if I'm not good enough?" Himeko doubted while her head was down.

"Let me tell you straight up, when it comes to hustling, you can never doubt yourself. Self-doubt is a cardinal sin." Chikane said, thinking that will drive the point in what she perceived to be Himeko's childish mind. However, that didn't make Himeko feel any better, for she still had doubts of herself that she can ever measure up to anybody's especially Chikane's, expectations.

As soon as they got out of the station, they head straight to a pawn show in a somewhat remote location on a back street. Himeko was puzzled.

"Why are we going to a pawn show?"

"To do some window shopping" Chikane replied. As soon as they got there Chikane head for the jewelry section. Most of the jewelry looked the same except for this stunning 18k gold necklace that carried a big ruby stone on it. It had a scratch on the left side of the stone but it still didn't lose its appeal.

"Wow! That necklace is beautiful!" Himeko awed.

"It sure is, Hime-san. I wish I had enough money to afford it."

While Chikane was looking at the jewelry Himeko was looking around the store. She was checking out the DVDs and mangas, seeing if there was anything she liked. She found a rare doujin of Battle Mikos and had enough money to buy it.

After their visit to the pawnshop, they stopped at a billiards hall. The place did not fit stereotypical image of what you expect to be a pool hall. It was clean with little or no smoke. It also had bright lights all over the place and not all the people looked like they just came out of jail or belong to bikers group, though there were a few of them that did. That made Himeko felt a little bit better, though any unfamiliar area will make the sheltered girl scared a bit.

As soon as they entered into the hall, the owner greeted Chikane. It was apparent that she came here quite often with everybody looking at her and cussing about her under their breathes. Chikane looked for an empty pool table and since it was a bit busy at the time, she had to do some searching. Eventually, she found one and paid one of the workers for an hour usage. When she got the billiard balls from the worker, she set them up and gave Himeko a cue stick.

"Have you ever used a cue stick?" she asked even though she felt that she already knew the answer. Himeko nodded no but she added, "But I've seen it done before."

"Okay, then show me," Chikane challenged. Himeko got to the table and set herself up to hit the cue ball. Chikane immediately noticed that she didn't chalk her stick, her positioning was bad, and she was holding the stick wrong. Nevertheless, she didn't say anything and just watched what she was going to do next. As soon as Himeko tried to strike the ball, the cue stick flew out of her hand and landed on the floor. One of the staff was carrying a tray full with beer when he stepped on the cue stick. He slipped and fell. Chikane looked at Himeko and all that Himeko could do was look back sheepishly.

She eventually showed Himeko to proper way to hold a stick and position herself correctly. While she was training Himeko, a man came up to her.

"Hey Miya-san, I challenge you to a game. How much you want to bet?" he said in his proper English accent.

"Well, it's good to see you Watanabe-san. I can wager about 20,000 yen (that's about 222 US dollars, 133 pounds sterling, or 150 euro)" she responded. Henry Watanabe was a half-English, half Japanese man from Manchester, England. He says that he's a professional billiards and snooker player, but she knew it was just a front. His real profession is smuggling stolen European luxury cars and car parts to Japan. The Japanese love European luxury cars and he can sell it for a cheaper price in the black market than what they would pay for in retail.

"That sounds good enough for a game of five, how about it?" he said.

"Sounds good to me," she replied.

And so they started to play. They both won four games each when they got to the decisive ninth game. In that game Chikane had a hot streak going, knocking down five balls in a row before she finally got to the 8-ball. He had four solids left and he was a bit nervous, hoping that something bad happens. He didn't let is show through; instead he was showing the ‘stiff upper-lip' English trademark. Himeko was only a few feet behind her and got excited about it. She wanted to get a closer look to see Chikane make the shot. However, as soon as she started to walk she tripped over herself. Chikane was too focused on the shot to notice that Himeko was behind her. Just when she was about to hit the cue ball Himeko bumped into her. She hit the cue ball but it went into a side pocked and she scratched. Thus, Mr. Watanabe won automatically and he got the 20,000 yen.

He collected the money happily. Then, he told Chikane in his polite-yet-phony English manner, "Thank you very much for the wonderful game. You need to bring you friend quite often." Then he left with a huge smug on his face. Chikane was very upset at Himeko and looked at her angrily. Himeko responded back sheepishly, "Sorry."


Next, they went to the Shibuya district. They went to a bakery but it really was a front for an illegal gambling racket. It was owned by the notorious gangster, Kazuya. In addition to various gambling joints, he also runs a ruthless drug, prostitution, and racketeering business. One of the gambling activities that occurred in the building is Mahjong.

As they were walking to the building Chikane spoke. "Okay, Himeko. I'm going to play a game of Mahjong. Now, I don't want you to start a conversation with anyone over there. All you do is say ‘hi' and that's it, understand?" Himeko nodded her head in agreement. As soon as they got into the bakery they head to the backroom. Chikane knocked on the door and the doorman peeped out through the peephole. He recognized Chikane but not Himeko, so when he opened the door he immediately questioned her.

"Who is this little girl?" he demanded. The doorman himself wasn't very big but he was rather muscular and had a strong Aikido background as Chikane noted to Himeko before they met him.

"This is Kurusugawa Himeko, and she is with me," Chikane stated.

"I don't see a girl like you very often, nice to meet you ma'am," as he bowed and smiled. Himeko bowed back in politeness. It was obvious that he was hitting on Himeko, he's usually not that friendly to guest. For some reason Chikane felt uncomfortable about it, to the point that she felt rather angry. Immediately, she frowned at him and said, "Can you just tell me if there's a game going on?" Taken back by surprise of her frankness, he responded "Hey, I didn't know, arigatou gomen. There are two going on." He knew Chikane well enough that she meant a game of Mahjong. Chikane and Himeko immediately headed upstairs. In the back of her mind, Himeko was surprised that the men thought that they were a couple.

While they were heading upstairs, Himeko asked Chikane, "Are you really good at Mahjong?"

"Good?" She looked at her with a ‘whatever' look. "Girl, I'm great. I'm so great Hatsune Mai comes to me for advice!" Of course Himeko knew that Chikane was exaggerating but she found it funny nevertheless. There was no way that the first ever Mahjong World Champion would come to a street girl for advice.

The environment in the upper floor was almost the exact opposite of the pool hall. The area was full of smoke as Himeko started to cough, she wasn't used to it even though her oba-san was a big smoker. It was also dimly lit. Untypically associated with this type of environment were people from various walks of life in the floor. There were your typical thugs and gangsters of course, but there were also businessmen and even a few women were gambling. And they were of different ethnicity and race: black, brown, yellow, white, and even red! Unlike other areas of Tokyo, and of Japan in general, it didn't matter one bit who you were. The only thing that mattered around there was the amount of yen you was carrying.

Chikane headed directly to the Mahjong room with Himeko trailing behind like a little kid. The person running the game was Ken Narita, Kazuya's right-hand man. He and everybody else knew her very well. They also knew about her attitude and her fighting ability, thus they knew it was not wise to mess with her. She waited a few minutes before the next available and then proceed to play the game. Himeko sat a safe distance away from her, making sure that she didn't do anything stupid. When she got in the game, she was dealt with her first set of tiles and put in her money in the pot. An average game of four-people mahjong takes about ten to fifteen minutes and that one was no different. In that one Chikane lost, but she went on to win the next one.

Over an hour passed and Chikane was clearly winning. By then she had around 40,000 yen and decided to play her final game. Himeko was excited that she was winning, but she knew better than to act like a cheerleader, so she kept her excitement to herself and just smiled when she won. It was a wise choice as she won 10,000 yen in that game. There was a huge grin on her face as well as Himeko's. She pulled out her plastic bag and collected the remaining money and then started to head out.

While they were leaving the place, Himeko said "Wow, this is great! You were really good!"

"I sure am," Chikane smiled confidently. While Ken was collecting all the tiles he noticed something, there were two extra Wind tiles in the pile. They were part of the melds used by Chikane to win her games. Literally, Chikane had some tiles in her coat sleeves and some of the must have fell out. He immediately notified the rest of the players and then they looked out of the window. They were able to spot Chikane and Himeko among the small crowd outside. Fortunately for Chikane, Himeko looked up and saw the people looking at them and she notified Chikane, "Chikane-san, why are they looking at us?"

"Huh?" Chikane was dumbfounded at first until she looked up as well and saw Ken's head sticking out of the window. She immediately knew that they found out and her shocked expression gave it away that she had been caught. Without a moment to spare, she told Himeko to run. "Run, Hime-san, run!"

"Huh, what's going on?" She asked with some cluelessness.

"Don't ask questions, just run!"

And so they took off. The operation along with the doorman and the players whom Chikane screwed over chased after them. Chikane was the faster of the two and was carrying the bag. Himeko was trying desperately to catch up with Chikane and at the same time trying to evade the men. As they ran through the busy streets of Shibuya, they were darting through the crowd. Chikane was trying her best to lose them but they were still on hers and Himeko's tail.

About a few moments later she was running on the street. She didn't notice the ‘Do not walk' signal was on and a car speeding by nearly ran her. She was instantly startled by the car's horn and threw her hands up in the air. Unfortunately, when she did that, the bag went up in the air and all the money came out of it. Everybody who was nearby immediately ran for the money, including the driver of the car. Chikane nearly got knocked over by the crowd and was really disappointed as she watched the frantic crowd collect the money.

"Oh, shit."

With little to no money, she knew that there was only one other way to make some money.


In a dark and isolated alley somewhere in Tokyo lies a teal-haired man who looked dirty and unkempt. He had the place surrounded with aluminum foil that, according to his fragile mind, will block gamma ray from Jupiter from frying his brain. He has been here for a few weeks after escaping from the mental institution. All the policemen in the greater Tokyo area have been alerted, but to most of them he's just another perp, so they didn't bother putting a lot of energy into finding him.

The man was Tsubasa Oogami, Souma's older biological brother, and he has treatment-resistant paranoid schizophrenia.

His world is full of paranoia, thinking that everything is out to get him, whether its gamma rays from Jupiter, KGBs, blue deamons, and spy cameras. He lives off of the wasted food in trashes and only comes out in night, thinking the spy cameras won't spot him. He constantly hears ‘voices' in his head, telling various things.

Just like anyone with a severe case of schizophrenia his sentences are incoherent; he is very negligent about his appearance, and he is very unbalanced and volatile.

He thinks he's on a mission, and that is to find his baby brother and to save him from all the ‘evils' in this world. He still thinks Souma is still a child.

While he is in the alley, he keeps on hearing internal ‘voices’ in his head. “We’re coming to kill you. We’re coming to kill you. We’re coming to…”

He starts to scream. “No, you’re not! Kill me you can’t! Stop it, stop it!” And he hurled himself to the wall, holding his ears, thinking it will stop the noise. Then he started to go crazy, throwing the trash cans all over the place. It was an isolated place so no one could hear his psychotic rage. The rage was starting to wear him down and then all of a sudden, the voices stopped. Then another thought came in his head.

"Baby brother. Must save. Baby brother. Must save." And with the remaining energy he had, he left the alley to find Souma.


When she got back to the park, she told Himeko to meet her at the station around midnight, which was unusually late but she agreed nevertheless. All the running and excitement for that day made Himeko tired and she took a nap. She got up around 11 pm, got herself dressed, and headed to the station. When she met Chikane, she noticed the mid-sized, navy-blue zipper bag she was carrying.

"Hey Chikane, where are we going at this time of the night? And what is that bag for?"

"I will answer your questions later, just come with me now," she commanded.

"Okay," Himeko obeyed. She was secretly hoping that it wasn't something bad. They took the subway back to Ikebukuro station and head right back to the pawn shop. Deep down inside, Himeko knew it wasn't going to be a good thing. Instead of going through the front side they went to the back of the store. Chikane made sure that no one noticed that they were in the back. By then Himeko didn't have a good feeling about this and unfortunately she knew what Chikane was about to do, but she asked nevertheless.

"Ano Chikane, what are we doing back here?" She was afraid that she already knew the answer. Chikane didn't bother to answer her question; instead she opened the bag and took out some dark clothing. She put on her clothing then she put on a black ski mask. Remember earlier when she was checking out the jewelry in the store? Well Himeko remembered as well and she was shocked. Her silence made her intentions clear to Himeko. "You're not going to steal the jewelry are you!?!" She said somewhat loudly.

"Ssshhhh! Be quiet! I don't want to attract any attention here!" Chikane whispered.

"But what you are doing is wrong! Plus what if you got caught?"

"I won't get caught and don't pass any moral judgments on me right now, I'm not in the mood. Please watch out in the front and notify me if the cops are coming."

"But how?" she asked. She can't believe that Chikane was going through this.

"Here you go," she said as she handed her a pre-paid phone. "Call this number here if somebody comes." Himeko was still stunned when she handed the phone to her. Chikane patience were a little thin and she told her "Look, are you going to help me or not?" Himeko wasn't sure if she should or not, knowing what she was doing was wrong, but she didn't want to see her get in trouble so she agreed to reluctantly. With her approval, Chikane continued on with her plan.

She had already cased the area a long time ago and knew what type of security they had and where it was located. She knew where the alarm's power source was located and she short-circuited it with her tools. Then she opened the back door to the store with some tools she managed to get from a locksmith. With the security disabled she was able to freely roam around the store. When she got to the jewelry section, she opened the glass with a glasscutter and proceeds to take all the jewelry in the display section, including the necklace with the scratched ruby she had her eyes on. After she got some of the jewelry she quickly left the place. She knew better than to get too greedy and that was a good thing because it was only ten minutes later when a policewoman in foot patrol checked the store out. She got a call from the security saying the store's alarm was not responding.

As soon as she left the store, Chikane changed back to her regular clothing and they nonchalantly left the area. Himeko was upset about this and brought it up when they were in a dark alley.

"Don't you know you could have gotten in big trouble?" she protested.

"Yeah, but I didn't, and that's all that really matters."

"But what you just did is wrong!"

"Will you grow up little girl!?! This ain't the wonderful world of Disney. This is real life, girlfriend, and you got to make ends meet. It's called survival and you got to do whatever it takes."

"But there are other ways to make it." She said rather naively.

Chikane knew that Himkeo was really naive but she never knew the extent of it until now. "You really are a naïve bitch? I don't have a bunch of flea-carrying cats to make a circus like Neko-san, nor do I have a singing voice like my annoying next-door neighbor. What I do have is a fist and a brain and I'm going to use them to the fullest. Do I make myself clear?" Himeko dared not to future argue with Chikane, thinking that Chikane was right and she was wrong. After all, Chikane was much more streetwise than she was, so she reluctantly said, "Okay."

During the trip back to Shinjuku, Himeko wanted to get her mind off of the burglary, so she brought up something. "Do you know a good place to eat?"

"What made you bring that up?"

"Well my birthday is coming up and maybe me and Neko-chan can go somewhere?"

"When is your birthday?"

"This coming Friday (October 1, 2004)."

"Really?" Chikane said with a surprised look on her face.

"Yeah, why?"

"Because that is also happens to be my birthday."

"Really? That's great! Then maybe we can celebrate our birthday together" Himeko said cheerfully. Coincidence can be a good thing, for Himeko's case it was a great thing!

"That's sounds great to me!" Chikane agreed. She was already passed her anger with Himeko at that point. For some reason she liked the ideal of celebrating her birthday with Himeko. This was uncharacteristic for the reclusive loner Chikane. She couldn't understand why she did; maybe she was starting to rub off of her.

When they got back to Shinjuku, they headed to Himeko's tent. No light was coming from Nekoko's tent, therefore she must be asleep. This was the first time that Chikane came inside the tent. Usually, she came short of entering inside because she didn't want to hear Nekoko's squeaky annoying voice but since she was sleeping, she didn't have to worry.

While inside Himeko turned on the battery-powered lamp and got her sleeping bag out. Some of Nekoko's cats were sleeping inside. This is not unusual since some of the cats bonded with Himeko, especially the one Himeko chased after.

Himeko acquired more stuff from various trash dumps and it was screaming out ‘Kawaii!' She had her usual drawing all over the tent, with drawings of anime characters and also of Disney and Sanrio characters, mostly female. Inside the tent were stuff animals of such notable Disney characters such as Minnie Mouse, Chip n' Dale, and others. There were also stuff animals of Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty, Cinnamo, and others. She had a Little Mermaid alarm clock on her nightstand. It was a gift from Nekoko, she thought it was useful since she always woke up late.

It left an unusual impression on Chikane. She didn't know whether she entered a tent of a girl turning sixteen or that of one turning six! As she looked at drawing of Ariel from The Little Mermaid she was amazed at the near-duplicate quality of the drawing.

"Did you do all these drawings, Himeko-san?"

Himeko nodded, "Yep! Do you like them?" She said, secretly hoping that she would like them.

"I sure do. You would make a great mangaka." Then an idea came in her head. "Why haven't you sold any of them?"

"I don't think anybody would like them. My oba-san didn't like them," she said with disappointment.

"Man, fuck that bitch!" Chikane inadvertently blurted out. Himeko was shocked at her cussing tone. Chikane quickly covered her mouth in shame. She thought that she should have known better than to talk like that around Himeko. "Sorry I didn't mean for it come out that way."

"It's okay," for Himeko quietly agreed to what Chikane thought of her aunt.

"What I really meant to say was that your oba-san can't recognize your talent. We can make some serious money here. Can you draw people?"

Himeko nodded as she pointed to the various drawings of people in her tent.

"And can you draw quick?"

"I sure can. I had to in my art club since we had tight deadlines."

"Good, tomorrow meet me at the station and bring any necessary art supplies. I'll be your manager; I'll protect you and make sure that nobody will take advantage of you."

"Do you serious think we could make some money off of this?"

"Of course we can with your skills." Chikane tried her best to assure Himeko of the success.

"I hope so," She said then she yawned, she was clearly tired.

"Look, get your rest and meet me around 11:00 am. Our training hasn't end but it will be cut down a bit."

"I understand."

"Now have a good night," she said as she leaves the tent. Himeko eventually went to sleep with a smile on her face. She didn't have any nightmares; in fact, she only had one since that night in Nekoko's tent.


When she got to the station, she carried her art supplies with her and her workout clothes as well. They did their training, albeit only an hour, and then they head back to the station. While they were outside, Himeko set up her equipment and Chikane put up a sign saying, "Get yourself drawn for 1,000 yen (around 12 USD)."

It was going on fine for a few days, but Chikane was getting bored so she whipped out her harmonica and started to play a few tunes. Himeko was surprised; she never knew that Chikane could play the harmonica or any type of musical instrument. The harmonica seemed to work as they were beginning to attract more people and made more money. When they had a small break, Himeko brought it up to her.

"Wow, how did you learn how to play the harmonica?"

"I learned how to play it and a few other musical instruments at my koji."

"How many can you play?"

"Well, besides the harmonica I can play the flute, guitar, drums, and most of all, the piano."

"Wow, that's amazing! How did you learn all that those instruments?"

"Well, there really isn't much to do there, so just to keep myself busy I decided to learn some music."

"So, you say that you play the piano the best? Can you play for me some day?"

"Sure, I would love to." Chikane said, she wouldn't do such a favor for anyone but since Himeko has done a lot for her, it's the least she can do in return. About an hour later, a young teenage couple came up to the girls.

"Hi there, can you draw me and my boyfriend together?" said the young girl.

"She sure can for 1,000 yen," Chikane said before Himeko could speak up. For the most part, Chikane did the talking. Himeko didn't complain since she preferred it that way.

"Who are you?" the boyfriend scoffed at Chikane.

"I'm her manager and I'm here to make sure nothing happens to her. Now are you going to pay the 1,000 yen or not?" she said with her usual no-nonsense attitude, looking straight at Souma's eyes.

The couple just looked at each other and then handed the cash to Chikane. Then the girl said something before Himeko started her drawing.

"I want you to put near the bottom ‘Always together, Souma and Makoto'."

"Of course, that shouldn't be a problem Himeko-san?"

"Nope, not at all," she replied.

"Okay then, she'll put it on there."

"That's great!" Makoko shouted in her usual excited tone.

She then started to draw the loving couple while Chikane started to play on her harmonica. It took her only twenty minutes to finish the drawing. When she was done she showed it to the couple and they were amazed at the quality.

"Wow! You really are a little Genso!" she exclaimed. That brought a huge smile on Himeko's face, being compared to a legendary artist.

"Yeah, could you imagine some of her artwork at the temple? Onii-chan would be impressed," Souma said to Makoto.

"He sure would. Here, have an extra 500 yen." Makoto gave to Chikane in goodwill and then they left. That brought a smile to Chikane's face.

"They seem to be a nice couple," Himeko concluded.

"Probably. Here's the 500 yen, it's yours." Chikane handed the money to her graciously.


"No problem. It's getting late, so let's go home now."

"Okay." Himeko said and she started to gather her equipment.

When they got to her tent, Himeko started to put away the equipment. While she was putting away the equipment, one of the paints she was carrying spilled on her shirt, making a big mess. Chikane saw the mess and commanded her to take off the shirt. Himeko was reluctant at first.

"Don't be stupid and take off the shirt. You're wearing a bra aren't you?"

"Yes," she answered meekly.

"Than just take off your shirt, I'm a woman too! You're not showing me anything I haven't seen before!"

Himeko knew she had no choice but to take off the shirt, so she hesitantly took it off. When she took it off, Chikane eyes nearly jumped out. She saw the bruises on her stomach, the cigarette burns on her forearms, and what looked an iron burnt mark on her.

"Oh my God." As soon as she said that Himeko started to shed tears. "Did those bastards did all that to you?" Himeko knew that she mean her relatives and she shook her head in affirmation. "Please, tell me what happened to you when you were living there. I need to know everything."

Himeko paused for a while, trying to muster everything she can to tell her story without breaking down. She was beginning to cry profusely as the painful memories of abuse started to rush into her mind.

"My relatives used to beat me a lot, mostly my oba-san but sometimes my oji-san as well. They used to whip me not only with belts, but with wire hangers, electrical cords, basically anything they can get their hands on. They also used to throw me against the wall, smack me, and one time my oba-san kicked me down the steps." Chikane was boiling mad at what she was hearing. If she met her relatives, especially her aunt, she would immediately beat the shit out of them. The painful experiences happened a long time ago, yet they felt like they were just yesterday to Himeko.

Himeko hesitantly continued, "They would beat me even for simple things such as forgetting to put out the trash or touching her cigarettes," she said as she looked at the cigarette burns on her right forearm. It was hard for her to see them with her tears covering up her eyes but she still looked at those damaging scars. "They would also call me names such as stupid, dumb whore, otaku-girl, retard, and those other bad words. It didn't help matters that people in school were doing the same thing while bullying me.

For the most part, I kept it to myself, didn't speak up or sought help. There was that time where I did spoke up, but, but -" Himeko couldn't say anything as she cried even more. Chikane saw the pain in her face but she knew she had to hear it from Himeko.

"What happened Hime-san? Please, tell me."

Himeko used every ounce of strength in her tender body to regain her composure and said, "One time, I really got upset when my oba-san threw away my manga and anime DVDs, that I stormed into her room and called her a freaking witch, only I didn't exactly said ‘freaking witch'," she said with a shameful look on her face. Chikane fully understood what she actually said. "She told me not to talk to her like that again and I told her to shut the ‘f' up!" Chikane was stunned at what she heard; she didn't think Himeko had it in her. "That was my fault right there. I felt so ashamed of cursing to my oba-san, that was very un-Christian. God was probably mad at me for doing that."

Chikane had to try her best to resist rolling her eyes but she also knew that it wasn't a trivial issue to Himeko and didn't treat it as such, "Himeko you were just being human, there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with being upset to someone who had wronged you. Yes you cursed but you had every right to get angry at your oba-san. I seriously doubt that God would be mad at you for that."

Himeko agreed but with some reluctance, not totally sure that Chikane was right, "That's probably true but I should have known better. She was ironing her clothes and then after that she -"

Himeko couldn't complete her sentence, instead she balled out crying. That particular experience had the deepest scar on her, physically, emotionally, and worst of all, mentally. She didn't need to complete it since Chikane already knew what happened. Now Chikane knew where that iron mark came from. She came up a bit closer to Himeko and held her to her shoulders as Himeko continued to cry.

While still sobbing on her shoulder's, Himeko mumbled, "My oba-san kept on telling me that I'm a big disappointment, and she's right, I'm nothing more than a big disappointment." Himeko said as she broke down, exposing the root of her lack of self-confidence. Just that sentence alone told Chikane her life story. Everything in her life pretty much revolved around that belief she had on herself. It made her underachieved, resign, be submissive, and surrender. Nothing brought her more pain than that thought she had in herself and it didn't help matters that her inner conscious continuously fed it.

Chikane did her best to comfort her as she was crying her heart out on her shoulders. She realized how much that girl was hurting inside. She vowed from that point on to always be there for Himeko, for deep inside she knew that Himeko would be there for her as well. For once in a long time she was willing to trust someone, to finally open up to someone. While Himeko was holding her, she felt some marks on Chikane's back. She was only wearing a shirt with a bra so it wasn't hard to feel them. Could it be that she also went through the same thing that Himeko did?

The painful thought was so traumatizing, that it took her a while to finish her crying. When she did Chikane told her, "Look, you're far away from your relatives. You don't have to worry about them right now and you don't have to let their nonsense control your life. You are not a disappointment."

"But I haven't done anything for them or for anyone else to make them happy," she said.

"Bullshit! You have done a lot of wonderful things for everybody. You did a lot for Neko-san, for Hana-chan, for those people who you painted for, and for me. Yes, you've made you share of mistakes like the incident with the Snake Clan but who hasn't. Don't beat yourself up because a bunch of holy-rolling fanatics or a simple-minded catgirl can't appreciate how wonderful you are. I appreciate you very much."

With that Himeko started to smile, nobody has ever told her that. It was a different feeling from the usual what she would expect. Chikane finished it off with, "Look Himeko-san, get some rest for now and don't let the past control your life." That was some good advice from Chikane, if only Chikane herself could live by them as well...


As the days gone by, she was spending more time with Chikane. She was really enjoying being around her. She was also starting to notice her attraction to Chikane but she didn't know if she felt the same way. Did she still have feelings for that girl in the locket? Yet at the same time she was spending less time with Nekoko. Nekoko was starting to avoid her, feeling that she was getting too close to her arch-enemy. Himeko sensed that she was avoiding her but she still considered Nekoko her friend. So, she tried in vain to see Nekoko whenever she can, but she was either asleep or not around. It made her sad that she couldn't spend any time with her.

On Chikane's end, she was also enjoying her time with Himeko, as much as she didn't want to admit it. It was good to be around with someone you can trust, which she couldn't say that for a lot of people. Her kindness and selflessness was starting to impact her in a good way. She started to look forward to meeting Himeko everyday. Could she be in love? No, she though, she couldn't be in love with her. Her heart belong to the girl in the locket, even as long gone as she was. She made a vow not to love anyone else ever again and she's sticking with it.


It was around 1:00 am on October 1, 2004 when Himeko and Chikane went into her tent. They just came from their now-ritual night of walking together where Himeko took a lot of pictures. Unbeknownst to Himeko, Chikane brought a gift for her birthday.

"I got something for you."

"Really? What is it?"

"Close you eyes first and open your hands."

"Okay," she said sweetly and she did as Chikane commanded. She pulled out a red bow hairpiece and put it on her hands. Himeko opened her eyes and got excited.

"Happy birthday!" Chikane said excitedly.

"Wow, it's a bow! Is this for my hair?"

"Yep, let me put it on for you." Himeko gleefully obliged and Chikane proceed to put the hairpiece on. Himeko checked it out on her mirror and she thought it looked adorable.

"Thank you so much!" she said happily as she gave a hug to Chikane. Himeko decided to return Chikane the favor as well.

"I got a gift for you as wel1!"

"Is that so? What is it? Where is it?"

Himeko had it hidden behind her nightstand as she pulled it out. It was a painting of the girl in Chikane's locket. She painted the drawing and had it framed.

"Happy birthday!" Himeko elated.

As soon as Chikane saw it, she started to shed some tears. It was very clear to Himeko that the girl had a strong emotional effect on Chikane. With tears burning her eyes, she finally spoke her name.



[End notes: I would like to thank Ninja_Girl_L33r for beta-reading the story]

Chapter 8

Title: 2004, October 1st

[Author's notes: Japanese Terminology:

Bian - Japanese slang for lesbian. It's okay for lesbians to say it to each other (like the N word for African-Americans) but not for someone who isn't.

Onabe - (Wikipedia) Literally "a pot," this word refers to lesbians or occasionally to female cross-dressers. Often pejorative. Invented in modern time as a female slang counterpart for "okama"


What was an act of kindness on Himeko's part translated to a painful exposure of a wound that never healed for Chikane. Himeko's drawing of the girl in the locket revealed a part of her past that she was still struggling to cope. After seeing the picture, Chikane broke down and cried. She was literally on her knees sobbing. Seeing the immense emotional pain Chikane was going through, Himeko got on her knees and put her head on her shoulders as she continued her crying while clutching to Himeko.

"So, you know?" Chikane sobbed.

"Know what? That she was someone important in your life?"

"Yes, she was," she said with more clarity in her voice as tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Was Otoha her name?"

"Yes, Kisaragi Otoha was her name. She was in my orphanage."

"Is she still there?"

When Himeko asked that question Chikane started to cry even more, not wanting to fully answer the question.

"No, not at all," she tearfully answered.

"There where is she?" Himeko innocently asked.

It took all the strength and energy she had in her body just to answer Himeko's simple question. While the answer was simple enough, it was not easy for Chikane to respond.

"She's gone."

Himeko was stunned when she said that. She knew exactly what Chikane meant.

"Oh my, I'm so sorry Chikane-san. You must be going through a lot terrible pain losing someone you love very much."

"Well her death is part of it but there's more to it."

Himeko was completely tuned in and focused when she said, "Really? Could you please tell me about it?"

The last thing Chikane wanted to do was to relive the pain she went through, but she knew it was only fair to tell Himeko about it since Himeko told about hers.

"When I told you that I was an orphan at St. Fuukino's, I lied."

Himeko looked at Chikane with a bit of surprise but she simply said, "Oh."

"The truth was I was an orphan at Our Lady of Sorrows orphanage in southern Mahoroba."

Himeko was totally shocked. She knew about Our Lady of Sorrows orphanage and its notorious reputation throughout Japan. Considered to be the most brutal all-female orphanage in Japan, it was aptly called ‘the hellhole.' It was a reformatory school/orphanage where all the trouble-making kids, orphan or not, were sent. From that point on, Himeko knew the story wasn't going to be a happy one.

"Oh my goodness, I've heard about the place. Is it as bad as they say it is?"

"Even worse," she said with a hard scowling look on her face. "My whole family died in a horrible bus accident when they were coming from a picnic during a family reunion. The bus fell of a cliff while coming down a mountain. I was only an infant so I only know what the nuns and the newspaper clippings told me. They said I was extremely lucky since I was the only survivor in the accident. Since all my family members perished in the accident and I had no other living relatives, I was sent to an orphanage.

I was shipped around many orphanages throughout Japan, mostly for lack of space. I felt like I was just another kid that they could care less about, so I became rebellious. I got myself in trouble many times in many orphanages. I beginning to be viewed as a problem child and so they decided to send me to Our Lady of Sorrows."

Then the tears started to roll again right after she mentioned the orphanage's name, "I was sent there when I was 11 years old. The people over there were terrible. I remember the first day when I was there, this big nun came up to me and asked what my name was and I refused to answer. Looking back, that was foolish of me. She asked me two more times and I refused both times, so she got fed up and punched me in the stomach then she picked me up and held me in the air by the collar of my shirt. She then told me that I was her bitch now and that I better do as she said or else she would do worse. At that moment, I knew I was in a prison."

Himeko didn't say anything vocally but her eyes said it all. She was rather taken aback to Chikane's story so far, yet this was only the tip of the iceberg.

"We were treated like animals in that place: terrible foods, strict orders, lack of free time, and lots of beatings even for simple things. For example, if I said my penance wrong, they would hit me with a ruler. They will beat you with anything they got their hands on: electrical cords, belts, shoelaces, whips, even metallic objects." To Himeko, it sounded just like when she was living with her relatives. "They also played a lot of mind games with us, such as stealing a precious item from one kid and making it look like another kid did it so that the two kids would fight each other. They created an atmosphere where nobody could trust each other, everybody was for themselves. And that wasn't the worse of it. What's the worst part about that hellhole? It's - it's -"

At that point Chikane burst out crying, the memories were so painful she couldn't complete her sentence. Himeko realized how much pain she was in and did her best to reassure her.

"It's OK Chikane-san. It's all in the past, you can tell me," she said while hugging her and comforting her as best as she could. She cried for a good while before she regained her composure and continued on.

"There were times during the day, and sometimes in the night, where the nuns paid a personal visit with you. They would take you to an isolated area in the building and then they would..." Chikane choked up for a bit and struggled to complete her sentence. "They would strip you naked and have their way with you. In order words, they would molest you." After that confession Chikane totally broke down and cried profusely again.

That was the ultimate shocker to Himeko. She couldn't believe what she heard. Now it all made sense to her why Chikane was mean to people. Himeko didn't say anything, letting Chikane continue her story, but she was thinking "Oh my, poor Chikane."

"They did all sorts of sickening things to me, and they also made me do all sorts of disgusting things to them. But it wasn't just me; it was pretty much most of the girls in the orphanage. I was basically their fuck doll, fulfilling their sick pedophilic fantasies. They used every sex toy you could think of on me. Everybody talks about the priests and their perverted ways, but no one ever talks about some of the evil shit the nuns have done. I can personally tell you that the nuns are just as sick, deviated, and perverted as the priests."

It was hard for Himeko to hear all this, but she knew it was even harder for Chikane to tell her all this, so she listened with a sympathetic ear. Himeko was also starting to cry.

Chikane continued on with her story, "It was four years of hell being in that place, but after I turned 13, a great thing happened in my life, Otoha. The minute I met her I knew she was going to change my life forever. We immediately became close, spending lots of time together. We were virtually inseparable. We shared about everything you can image to each other. We talked a lot about stuff that any orphaned kid would talk about, such as traveling around the world, what it would be like to have cool parents, and other things.

There was nothing between us in the beginning, we were just good friends. However, I was building up an attraction for her. It was hard for me to understand it at first since I never felt that way for anybody. The irony was that the nuns would punish us if they saw any of us kissing, hugging, or showing any type of affection to each other, hypocrites. Eventually, I did understand what I was feeling and had learned to accept it.

Her birthday was coming up and I wanted to give her something special, but since I had no money I couldn't buy her a gift. I knew I had to so her how much I care for her so I decided that I will give her a kiss. When her birthday came, we had a private celebration and that's when I gave her a kiss. That surprised her a bit, but it was me who got the biggest surprise when she kissed back! A little bit later she confessed to me that she felt the same way for me. From that moment on, we became lovers and it was the only good thing that came out of that place, but our love for each other was not enough.

The nuns knew about our relationship and they used it to their advantage. They tried to play mind game with us but it wouldn't work, so they gave us lots of beatings. They used the Bible on us, telling us how our relationship was going against the will of God. Those damn hypocrites were no better than us. In fact, I think they were spying on us when we made love the first time," she said as she was nearly breaking down.

With all those painful beatings, terrible sexual assaults, and their hypocritical double-standards, we couldn't endure it anymore, we wanted it to end. So about nine months ago, we felt that the only way to get out of our suffering predicament was to commit suicide. I was able to sneak in a razor from a First Aid kit and we went to a back room. We declared our love to each other for the last time and then we slit our wrists. She did it first then I followed. We were holding each other hands while the blood was pouring out of our wrists. Eventually, I passed out. I don't remember much after that besides waking up in the hospital. I was told that one of the nuns found me and they rushed both of us to the hospital. Somehow I lived, but Otoha didn't.

I recovered soon enough to attend her funeral. While I was looking at her casket, I couldn't stop thinking why I lived and she didn't. I didn't go in the bus with the rest of the kids, instead a priest drove me back to the orphanage. During the trip back, he stopped on a red light. Something inside of me told me that now was the time to escape, so I quickly opened the door and bolted as fast as I can through the incoming traffic. There were a lot of horns blasting at me but I didn't care, I was not going back to that place alive. I rather get splattered by an SUV than to go back there. He chased me for a while but eventually I was able to lose him.

For two days, I was hiding at various places throughout Mahoroba, trying to get some food and money to leave the area. I knew they were looking for me, thus I knew I had to get out of town instantly and that's exactly what I did. When I had enough money to take a train, the first available train was the Fuji line from Mahoroba Station to Shinjuku Station. I figured that Tokyo was a good distance away from Mahoroba so I took it, and that's how I ended up here."

After she said that she started to cry even more. It was heavier than ever and it took her a while to stop crying. Himeko didn't say anything, she knew it was best to let her cry her heart out. That story told it all, about her cold and reserved persona and why she can't trust anyone.

In time, Himeko spoke, "I wish I could go back in time and stop all those things from happening to you Chikane-chan. But I can't. What I can do is help make things better for you right now and in the future. Just like how I wish I never had my relatives adopt me. We can't let our past control us, as you told me the other day." Himeko stated.

"You're right, I got to move on. I can't erase my past nor can I bring Otoha back to life, as much as I want to. Nevertheless, I'm surprise that you didn't see anything wrong about our relationship."

Himeko paused a bit and told her, "No I don't. In fact I'm a bian myself."

"Really?" Chikane said. Now it made sense as to why she made a lot of female anime and cartoon characters drawings.

"Yes, that was part of the reason why I ran away from home."

"I thought that was because they were abusive jerks."

"Well, that was the other part of it. One day, she went into my closet and saw my drawings. Some of them were of naked women. Others were of them kissing each other. The moment she saw that, she went berserk and beat the living daylights out of me with a wire hanger." Chikane closed her eyes tightly and could visually imagine what Himeko went through since she went through it herself. "About a few weeks later, while they went to a conference in the Philippines, I saw a letter from my mother. It was the usual letter, asking me how life was going, how school was doing, how she's glad to hear that everything was fine, etc. The only thing was that I've never seen any of those letters before, so I think that my relatives replied back as me."

Chikane had that scowling look returned to her face when she heard how Himeko's relatives used her.

As Himeko continued, "It was also the first sign of hope. The only people I knew in my life were my relatives and their friends. I couldn't run away to them, they would send me back to my relatives. Finally, I knew someone who could save me from my relatives. Unfortunately I didn't have any personal money to get to Tokyo. Also, there wasn't anything on the letter saying exactly where she lived in Tokyo, but it didn't matter, I just wanted to leave that place no matter what. So I went into their bedroom and took some money from their dresser. Of course I prayed to God to forgive me for stealing their money. Then I took as much stuff as I could and left the mansion. I took the same train you took directly to here. When I got here, I went to the city hall and asked if they can help me find her, but they couldn't. For the first week, I stayed at a hostel, until my money ran out. Then I was forced to live on the streets, and here I am right now."

Chikane was amazed to hear a story that was as interesting as hers.

"So I see that you took a big risk just like me?"

Himeko nodded, "Yes, but I don't think it was that big of a risk. It was an even bigger risk staying there." Chikane nodded back in agreement. Himeko then asked her a question, "Chikane, I need to ask you something."

"What is it?"

"If you're such a good fighter, then why didn't you beat up the nuns?"

Chikane wasn't surprised that she would ask such a question, "Well, those nuns were also the same ones who trained me in Karate. It would be useless to use it on them."

All that Himeko could say was, "Oh."

Not too long after, Chikane realized that it was very late, "Oh shit, I got to get back to the station. I promise to meet someone there in the morning." Someone that she can sell some of the jewelry to, as she purposely omitted that part to Himeko.

"Well it was nice having you here. Do you know what we are going to do for our birthday tomorrow?" For some reason, a part of Himeko didn't want to see Chikane leaving, but she didn't want to hold her like a prisoner either.

"For tomorrow night, yes, but not for the daytime," Chikane stated.

"Well that's good! I already know what we can do tomorrow."

"What are we going to do?" Chikane asked with some curiosity.

"I'll tell you tomorrow, until then, good night and happy birthday!"

As Chikane left the tent she replied back, "You too have a good night and happy birthday!" And she headed straight to the station. Himeko was outside of the tent, looking at her figure until she no longer saw her.

Little did they know that Nekoko was up and she was watching and listening to them all that time...


It was around 9 am when Himeko woke up. The Little Mermaid alarm clock went off and she woke up instead of doing her usual habit of hitting the snooze button. Today was an exciting day for Himeko since it was her birthday and she was turning sixteen. The day seemed exciting to Himeko as she looked forward towards the activities for the day. One of them was a Battle Mikos convention, thought Chikane didn't know about it yet. It was an exciting day and she wanted her best friend to come along. So Himeko came to Nekoko's tent and said, "Me and Chikane are celebrating our birthdays together! We are going to a Battle Mikos convention, then we are going to do something tonight, do you want to join us?"

Nekoko, not wanting to have anything to do with Chikane but didn't want to hurt Himeko's feelings, said, "Thanks but no thanks. You two can go ahead without me."

"But it will be fun! And we haven't done anything with each other for a while."

"That's good and all but don't forget about my seizures. What if my seizures occur in a public area?"

She did forget about her seizures, although Nekoko was using it as an excuse.

"I see, but could you at least come to the convention with us?" she elated.

"Hime-chan, you know I'm not into that type of stuff," she said in a matter-of-fact fashion.

"That's true. But do you want me to bring you something?"

Nekoko was always amazed at Himeko's selflessness, but at that time she found it annoying.

"No thanks, go ahead and go to the convention."

"OK," Himeko said with some disappointment in her voice. She knew that Nekoko didn't really want to deal with her because of Chikane, but she also knew that she can't give up on their friendship just because of that. She got herself ready and headed to the station.

When she got near to the station she saw Chikane there waiting for her.

"Ohayo, Chikane, how are you doing?" Himeko elated while hugging her friend.

"I'm fine thank you, how about you?"

"Great! Today is going to be a fun day!"

"I hope so, where are we going first? You still haven't told me," Chikane asked.

"Oh yeah, today there's a Battle Mikos convention going on. I'm really looking forward to it!"

When she heard that, a disturbed look showed on her face. All she could think of is the stereotypical notions that usually associated with anime/manga conventions, nerdy otaku men who still lived with their parents taking about some meaningless discussion about a hentai doujin of the mikos, debating how it's not hentai enough. Then the thoughts of them dressing up as mikos came into her mind. It was both disturbing and hilarious. She's pretty much against religion, so wearing something like would be an insult to her, yet seeing a ‘delinquent' like her in a miko robe could be quite funny. In short she, was not looking forward to it, but it was clear that Himeko was.

"Battle Mikos convention? What do they do there anyways?" Just to get an idea of what she will be dealing with.

"I don't know. I've never been to one, but I heard people meet there and talk about the manga and/or anime, sell some doujins, have some public speakers, and also hold a few contests. This one is really special since Kaishaku and the director Yanagisawa Tetsuya is going to be there to talk about the upcoming second season of the anime! "

"But what about money, I'm sure it's not free and we probably can't afford the tickets."

"That's not a problem, I already got them," she grinned as she pulled them out of her pocket. Chikane whimpered when she saw them.

"But what about our clothing, do you think they will allow in some homeless bums?"

"That's why we are going to a cosplay store, and pick up some clothing."

"Huh? A cosplay store?"

"Yeah, the one three blocks from here. We can dress like the mikos themselves."

"But wouldn't that cost some money?"

"Yeah, but it shouldn't be too expensive for some miko clothes."

"You don't know stores around here too well, do you? This is Shinjuku and nothing is cheap here girl."

"I'm sure it's not that expensive," she naively stated much to Chikane's chagrin. "So what are you waiting for, let's go!" Before Chikane spoke another word she pulled her arm and headed straight to the store.


What was one day of happiness for two people was just another day of frustration for two others. Mika Andojuni and her husband, Pastor Kazu Andojuni were getting frustrated over Himeko's disappearance.

"We haven't found her yet. We've search throughout the city and we can't find her. She must have left Mahoroba." A private investigator said to her over the phone.

"I can't thank of anywhere else that she would be, she hardly ever been outside the city."

"Well I'll talk to the people of the National Center for Missing Children and see what they can come up with. It would probably be the usual protocol; they probably won't put much effort into it since they are knee-deep in other cases."

"Well, are there any other options?"

"I could talk to other organizations but that's the best I could do for the moment."

"OK, then detective Gaichou-san, remember we are paying you very good money to find our niece."

"Yes, I know and it's my top priority. When I get new information I will tell you, until then have a good day." Then he hung up.

"Any news honey?"

"No, nothing. He still hasn't found any info on Himeko. He thinks she left the city."

"I see." Kazu said.

"I can't believe that little bitch would take our money and run away like that! She's more like her mother than I thought, besides finding those filthy pictures," she gritted.

"Well when we get her back, I have her sent to Pastor Riyuchi. He was once gay but God cured him and maybe with God's help he can get Himeko cured."

"I hope so, I'm not going to have a rezu in my house, it's bad enough that her mother is one too. Did you ever see that picture of her girlfriend?"

"That one you burnt? Yes, I have and it's rather scary. She's a big time onabe! Those types of girls really defeat the purpose of being a lesbian. I mean, if you are going to go out with someone who tries to act and look like a man, then why not just go out with the real thing?"

"That makes no sense to me as well, honey," she agreed.

Kazu continued, "If Sirochi knew what she was like, he probably would have gotten rid of her long before his death."

"Yeah. Just the thought of her makes me mad. It's because of her that my onii-chan is in the grave and that we ended up being the guardian of a fuck-up!" Even to this day, she blames Himeko's mother for her brother's death. He died in a car accident while he was drunk. She considers her bad influences caused his death. Kazu did his best to comfort his wife and she calmed down a bit but not much.

"Look, she's no longer here to make our lives miserable."

"She's not, but she doesn't have to do that, her idiot daughter is doing her job. What makes it hard is that today's her birthday. We could have been preparing for her birthday party, and all our friends would be here celebrating with us, then I could show them my new dress I bought," she boasted. Besides Christmas, her birthday is the only other day that they are really nice to her. In reality, the reason for the birthday parties is not for her sake but for the couple to hobnob with their friends and to show off their elite status. What even happened to the Bible's and Jesus' teachings about humility?

Kazu didn't say anything to her but just comforted her. After a while she brought up an important question.

"Has the media been ignorant about this?"

"Yes dear," He said. The reason they didn't want the media to find out was that if the media did, then Himeko might speak about her abuse. Even though they know that Himeko is rather meek they still couldn't take that chance.

"Good, that's just the way I want it," she smiled as she placed her head on his chest.


When they got to the cosplay store, they headed straight to the mikos section. They checked out all the miko clothing there and saw the prices on them. Himeko's jaw dropped.

"8,200 yen (100 USD) for a miko robe?" Himeko questioned in surprise.

"I told you," Chikane noted.

They have been looking through the robes for a while when the store owner interrupted them. He was disturbed that two ‘smelly bums' were in his store. He thought they were driving his customers away.

"Hey, are you two are going to buy or stare? If you're not going to buy then get out of here, you're driving the customers away,"

"How so?" Himeko innocently asked.

"Your two smell terrible. You bums are probably used to it but neither the customers nor am I. You're driving them away and this is a bad time especially with all the conventions going on today."

Chikane saw an opportunity out of this. She could use his willingness to get them out in their favor. The wheels in her head starts to turned as she spoke.

"Look, if you can reduce the price on those robes to 50% then we will gladly pay you and leave the store."

"Half-price! Are you crazy?" the owner shouted, he couldn't believe that Chikane had the guts to ask such a thing.

"Well then, let's continue our shopping then Hime-san?" Chikane said with a smile on her face.

"Okay!" Himeko smiled, playing along with Chikane's scheme.

The owner really didn't have much of a choice. He couldn't kick them out since he was nearly sued for a similar incident, so he budged in and said, "OK I'll take your deal, but you can only buy two and don't come back here ever again!"

Chikane smiled when she heard that and said, "That sounds good to me."

With his reluctant approval, Himeko went and picked out two robes for them. They looked the same ones the heroines wore in Battle Mikos.

"Are these are it?"

"Yep, just like in the manga itself. But Chikane-san, where are we going to clean ourselves and change?"

"That's not a problem Himeko-san, I got that covered," she said as she pulled out a card. It was a gym card to a local gym two blocks away from the store.

"Where did you get that?" Himeko asked, hoping the answer wasn't what she expected it to be.

"Remember the guy who wanted us to draw him and his dog a few day ago?"


"Well I met him at the station two days ago and he liked the drawing you did with him and his dog, so he gave me one free month in his gym. He happens to be the manager of the gym over there."

Much to Himeko's relief, Chikane got the card in an honest way and she can tell that she wasn't lying.

"Wow, that's great!" Himeko said.

"It sure is, now just pay the guy and let's go, we don't have a lot of time I assumed."

Himeko nodded her head in approval and paid the guy as Chikane requested. Then they headed straight to the gym. Himeko had to sign in as a guest since Chikane had one card. When they got into the locker room, everybody started to complain about the smell. It had been days since either one of them took a shower.

While taking off their clothes, Himeko looked at Chikane and said softly, "Do we really smell that bad?"

Chikane just nodded her head ‘yes' then said, "Don't listen to them, just take your shower." They went to the shower room and took their showers. The warm water spraying on them felt refreshing.

After they got out of the showers they quickly changed to their miko robes. While they were leaving the gym, people bowed at them in respect, thinking that they were real mikos! Himeko and Chikane couldn't help but to laugh at the situation. "Heh heh, if they only knew." Himeko said and Chikane giggled in return.

While leaving the gym Chikane asked, "So where exactly is the convention held?"

"It's held at the Tokyo Big Sight Convention Center"

"Oh, at the island (Odaiba), okay then we need to take the Rinkai Line to get there."

"Is that far?"

"No, it should only take about 30 minutes since it's a direct trip."

"Oh, that's good, the convention doesn't start until 12:00 and it's 11:15 now."

"Yeah but you don't know when the next train leaves, so let's get there now."

"Okay," and the two girls didn't waste any time getting to the station. When they got to the Rinkai Line terminal, there were quite a few women dressed up as the heroic mikos. It was quite evident where they were going. There were also a few men who dressed up as mikos as well...

"Wow, look at all those people dressed up as mikos!" Himeko said.

"Yeah, even some of the men dressed up as mikos. And I just saw a woman dressed up as a male! It looks like this convention is going to be very interesting."

"Why? Cross dressing is not common for an anime or manga convention?"

"Only in yuri and yaoi-based ones, not the regular ones. Anyhow, the train has arrived so let's get ready."

"Oh, ok," and they went straight to the train. While at the train, everybody was staring at them and whispering to each other how they looked remarkably similar to the mikos in the manga, but the two girls didn't know that and it made Himeko feel very uncomfortable. She brought it up to Chikane, "Why is everybody looking at us? What could they be whispering about? Do we still smell bad?"

Chikane didn't know either but she said, "I don't think we still smell, we were in the showers for a good time. I do think it's because we do look like them."

"I hope so," she said quietly.

Now it was really clear to Chikane how shy she was, so she gave her some reassurance.

"Hime-san, don't let these people get to you. What they say really doesn't matter. They could be saying good things; they could also be saying bad things. In truth, it really doesn't matter because they don't see the full picture of us. They're not living our lives."

Chikane was right but Himeko still felt a little bit uneasy with all the staring and talking and it all goes back to how the other students used to look at her back at her old school and how they used to talk about her. Those terrible days still live inside of her.

They finally reached the convention center. The convention was held at the west end of the building and the place was rather packed, it was full of people dressed as either mikos or the villains in the manga. The convention was much more popular than what the two girls could have imagine. There were a good deal of geeky otaku fanboys but what surprised Himeko and especially Chikane was the number of women in the convention. Many of them dressed like the miko heroines and quite a few of them dressed like the villains, female or male! Chikane's gaydar was going off like crazy, she knew that at least half the women in there had to be gay! Himeko wasn't aware of it since she basically assumed that most of the women would be gay in a convention like this.

She was a bit intimated with all the people around. It didn't help that a lot of people were looking at them, more so than in the train. In her head she tried not to dwell about them, but the more she fought it, the more it intensified.

Chikane saw the fright on her face and wisely reassured her. She didn't know why they were looking at them but she wasn't going to let them get to her. "Don't worry about those people looking at us."

"I'm trying not to but it feels like its only getting worse..."

"Hime-san, don't try to fight it, just let it be. Ignore it and go on with your business, just because its there doesn't mean you have to follow it." That actually made Himeko felt a better.

During their time at the convention, they met quite a few people. At first, they didn't talk to anyone since Himeko was afraid to talk and Chikane wasn't the social type. But as a few fanboys came up to them and started to talk, Himeko became more comfortable and chat back. For Chikane, it took a bit longer but she eventually started to talk. They were fanboys and they acted geeky but they weren't as bad as she imagined they would be. But as she talked to a few of them she saw a bit of her in them. She watched Himeko's warm and friendly interaction with the people and saw how much they enjoyed talking to her, despite her initial shyness. It made her thought about her relations with people in general, "Maybe my attitude towards people prevented quite a few opportunities to occur in my life." Also in the convention, Himeko started to take pictures of the event with her new digital camera she bought with the money she earned from her drawings.

After an hour of socializing, the convention started with an introduction by the president of the Battle Mikos Fan Club, the main hostess of the convention. Following the introduction was a live performance of the anime's theme song, by CooRie. Himeko was enjoying the performance and was dancing with the music. The music was not Chikane's cup of tea, nevertheless she danced with Himeko.

Next was a discussion by some of the seiyuus from the anime, talking about their roles in the anime. It was informative but it just your run-of-the-mill type of discussion. Following that was a raffle contest for gifts. Himeko and Chikane entered in the raffle but they didn't win anything. The next event was another contest, a contest to see who resembled the characters from the anime/manga the most. First was the villains of the show, the judge had already pre-screened the contestants who signed up for the raffle. They called up the three people who they thought most resembled the characters. The contestants went up on the stage and they introduce themselves to the crowd. Then the crowd picked the one they thought looked like the character the most. First to come up were the ones who resembled the Orochi villains, then came some of the minor characters from the manga/anime. Finally they got to the mikos. Two people were called up first, then Himeko and Chikane were called up. It took Himeko by surprise.

"Hey Hime-san, let's get up to the stage right now."

"Huh, what? We're going up there." Himeko said with her typical timid fear.

"Yes, we are, so let's get up there," Chikane commanded. She didn't want to be up there just as much as Himeko but she felt that it will help out with Himeko's shyness.

"O-o-ok," she uneasily replied.

"Just remember what I said," Chikane reminded to her and she nodded in agreement. As they headed up to the stage, Himeko felt like she was in another world, felling very uncomfortable. However, she remembered Chikane's words about not fighting her inner thoughts and instead used it to her benefit.

"I feel very uncomfortable, but it's okay," she reassured herself as she was heading to the stage. When they finally got to the stage, Himeko couldn't help but focused on all those people staring at them, she started to sweat from the pressure she put on herself. Chikane saw her nervousness and squeezed her right hand to reassure her. It made her feel better and brought a small smile on her face. They were in the middle of the stage with two other couples between them. The ones on their left were actually a mixed-pair with a man dressed up as Kaon. He looked so much like her that nobody knew he was a man until he talked. The pair on the right looked like the mikos very much, but not as much as Himeko and Chikane did.

The hostess came up to the couple on their left and asked them their name and did a small interview with them, it was then they found out that he was a man. Then she came up to them.

"Here are mikos number 2," the crowd cheered. "What are your names?" She gave the microphone to Himeko but she quickly passed it to Chikane, which got a lot of chuckles from the crowd.

"My name is Himemiya Chikane and I'm from Mahoroba," she said without any signs of nervousness.

"And the one who is dressed up as Himiko, what is her name?"

Chikane handed the microphone to Himeko, she wasn't going to let her get out of this. She nervously took the microphone and answered "K-K-Kurusugawa Himeko, and I'm also from Mahoroba."

"All the way from Mahoroba? Wow, that is some dedication!" Both Himeko and Chikane's face flushed red as the audience cheered. "Aren't you two girls missing school back in Mahoroba?" she kidded.

Chikane knew by now that Himeko wasn't a good liar, so she quickly took the mike and said, "Yes, we are, but we are huge fangirls and we wouldn't miss it for the world, no matter how far away it is, school or no school." That got a lot of cheers from the crowd, since a lot of them were also their age. By then Himeko started to feel comfortable and took the microphone from her.

"I'm really glad to be here. To finally meet other people who really like the manga and anime as much as I do. Himiko and Kaon are the best mikos!" She too got cheers from her comment.

"Well, I think I can speak for everybody here that we totally agree with you, and we're certainly glad that you two are here, but maybe not your home room teacher," which got a few laughs from the crowd. She then moved on to the last couple and did the same type of interview with them. After she was done with them she addressed the crowd.

"Ok, now it's time to pick the couple who looked like the mikos the most. Now remember to cheer for your favorite. First up is Kazawara-san and Minagi-san from Chiba." That one got a few cheers. "Next up is Himemiya-san and Kurusugawa-san from Mahoroba." Much to their surprised, they got a huge ovation. It was already clear to the judges and to the host who won the contest but just for formality she went to the last couple. They got more cheers than the first couple but nowhere near what Himeko and Chikane got.

"And the winners by a landslide are Himemiya-san and Kurusugawa-san from Mahoroba!"

The crowd cheered excitedly at the winners. It was a new and wonderful feeling to them. For once Himeko felt like an actual winner and so did Chikane and their faces showed it fully with their radiant and genuine smiles.

"We won! We won!" Himeko ecstatically elated to Chikane.

"I know," she responded in a more subdue manner, though she was clearly ecstatic.

The hostess then handed them their gift winnings. "In part of winning the most important contest in the convention, you two win the grand prize of 20,000 yen (about 243 USD)." As she handed the check to Chikane, their grins got even bigger. They thank the hostess and went back to their seats. About a few minutes later when they got back to their seats, the pinnacle of the convention began.

"Now for the moment you've been waiting for. I present to you, Kaishaku!"

The whole entire hall erupted in cheers as the creators of Battle Mikos stepped on the stage. Himeko was no exception as she was screaming and cheering like a nutty fangirl. Chikane simply clapped but she was surely enjoying watching Himeko going bonkers. Her high-pitched screams got Chikane's ears ringing but she pretty much grin-and-bear it.

As the Kaishaku duo started to speak they talked about the manga and of the upcoming fifth volume. They show excerpts of the manga and the crowd was pleased at what they saw. Then the director of the Battle Mikos, Tetsuya Yanagisawa, joined them at the stage and the crowd went nuts again. He talked about the anime with some assistance from Kaishaku. After that they answered some questions from the audience. Finally, the time came for what most of the audiences anticipated.

"Now for the moment you all have been waiting for. It a preview of the upcoming second season of Battle Mikos!" Tetsuya elated. The huge flatscreen came from behind the curtains and the preview appeared. It was a mixture of exciting highlight clips from the anime complimented with some upbeat dance music. After 10 minutes, the preview ended and the audience roared in excitement, especially Himeko. She was screaming her head off and this time Chikane covered her ears. Based on the audience's reaction to the preview, the second season wasn't going to be disappointed.

The hostess returned and brought a conclusion to the convention. After it ended, Himeko and Chikane headed out of the hall. As they were walking, people took pictures of the two. This time they just smiled, enjoying the attention they were receiving. Just as they were about to leave the hall, the hostess stopped them by surprise.

"Kurusugawa-san and Himemiya-san, wait a minute!"

"Huh?" Himeko responded as she turned her head to face the host.

As she finally approached them she told them, "Wait, don't leave yet. There are some important people who want to meet you."

"Really?" Chikane questioned.

"Yeah, just follow me."

And they did as they were commanded, following her back to stage at the end of the hall. When they got there, they were in for a bigger surprise. Three men approached the two ladies.

"Wow! Kaishaku-sensei and Yanagisawa-sensei!" Himeko elated like a little kid.

"Hi there ladies, we were remarkably amazed of how much you two resembled Himiko and Kaon, so we knew we had to take a picture with you, that's if you don't mind."

Himeko couldn't believe what she heard, this was an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, she wouldn't turn it down even if the world was about to explode. Chikane saw the sheer happiness in Himeko's face and knew if she didn't accept the offer, she was seriously disappoint Himeko, and that's the last thing she wanted to do.

"That's absolutely fine with me; it's like a dream come true! How about you Chikane-chan?"

"That's fine with me," she said as she was a bit surprised that she called her ‘Chikane-chan'.

As the man gathered behind Himeko and Chikane to pose, Himeko was on cloud nine with all smiles. Then the host took the picture and printed it out from the printer. She gave copies to everyone, but there was something that Himeko wanted to do with hers.

"Excuse me, Kaishaku-sensei and Yanagisawa-sensei, can I get a signature from you guys?" she asked rather boldly, nothing like her timid nature.

"Of course," Tetsuya said as he signed her picture, then Kaishaku did the same thing. When they offered Chikane to sign her picture she was about to decline, but then she thought what if that disappointed Himeko and what if Himeko lost hers, at least hers can be a backup. So she agreed to have it signed and they did accordingly. Himeko then asked to take the picture again but this time using her camera. She agreed and took another picture of them together. Now she got the memory of a lifetime in her SD card.

All in all, the convention was a satisfying moment to Chikane and a one-of-a-lifetime experience to Himeko. They finally left the hall and the convention center.

"Thanks for coming with me to the convention, even though it's not really you type of thing," Himeko said with her usual politeness.

"No problem, I enjoyed being there as a matter of fact," Chikane stated, but before she could say anything else a loud grumbling sound came from her stomach.

"Oh my, I'm really hungry."

"Me too."

"Are you in the mood for burgers, because I know a great burger place to eat?"

"Very much! You must have E.S.P. or something because that's exactly what was on my mind."

"Great! Then let's take a train to Shibuya, that's where it's located."


They took the train to the Hiro-o Station in Shibuya district and went to the burger place Homework's. It's a traditional American hamburger restaurant, more or less, with that American homely and comfortable atmosphere and environment. It's also a fairly popular restaurant and although it's very much American influence it still has some Japanese touch to it, like Avocado Burgers.

When they got there, the hostess seated them and gave them the menus. About two or three minutes later a waitress came up to them and took their order, "Ohayo, my name is Kaeda-san and I will be your waitress for today, are you two ready to take your orders?"

"Yes, Kaeda-san, I would like to have one of your delicious avocado burgers with some fries and a Coke." Chikane ordered.

"OK, and what would you like to order miss?" she said looking at Himeko.

"Ano, I would like to have a Fried Egg Burger with some fries and a Root Beer."

The waitress and Chikane looked at Himeko with some disbelief. Himeko ordered something from the Kids menu. Putting an egg on a burger is what kids do in Japan. The waitress replied, "Are you sure you want the Fried Egg Burger?"

"Hai, absolutely!" she said with her sweet and innocent smile.

"Okay... Let me repeat the orders, one Avacado Burger with fries and a Coke," Chikane nod her head slightly to confirm her order. She then looked at Himeko and repeated her order while giving her that look, "And one Fried Egg Burger with fries and a Root Beer." Himeko nodded like a little kid to confirm her order, not ashamed of it whatsoever. "Okay, your order should be up in ten minutes," she said and she left their table.

When she was far away enough, Chikane looked at Himeko and said, "An egg on your burger? How old are you? Remember we're now sixteen."

"I like eggs on my burgers."

Chikane was surprised at how comfortable she was with it, because she's usually second and third-guessing herself. It was a rare moment of Himeko's self-expressing herself regardless of what other people thought.

They were quiet for a while, Chikane was thinking about something. Himeko saw the look on her face and said "Chikane-san, what are you thinking about."

Chikane looked up to meet her amethyst eyes and said "I was just thinking about when you called me ‘Chikane-chan' back at the convention."

Himeko just remembered doing it and she was in shock. Her eyes widened as the result of it. It was not intentional but you don't do something like that in Japanese culture unless you were really close with the person. She immediately apologized to Chikane about it.

"Gomen nasai, gomen nasai!" Himeko exclaimed in fright. Chikane had a small smile on face and then simply calmed her down by putting her hand on her shoulders.

"It's okay Himeko-san, there's no need to panic. I think we have reached a point in our friendship that we can start calling each other -chan. That's if you agree with me Himeko-chan."

Himeko smiled back and said "I have no problem with it, Chikane-chan."

"That's good, but there was more going in my mind," she said as Himeko focus her attention to what she was about to say. "The last person who ever called me -chan was Otoha. I wouldn't let anyone else call me that. Eventually, she just called me Chikane. But what I was really thinking about was that she's not here to see my sixteenth birthday. She would have been already 16 but it still kind of hurts not having her here for this day." She was beginning to shed a tear as she spoke. Himeko held her right hand to comfort her. Deep down inside, she wanted to make Chikane happy in any way she can. She didn't know why but she knew she wanted to.

"She may not be here now, but she was there for your past birthdays and you can always cherish those."

"Yeah, but they weren't much. The nuns over there didn't give us birthday celebrations besides giving us a slice of cake during lunch."

"But didn't you and Otoha-san celebrate it together in a special way?"


"Then you can still cherish those moments, regardless of what others did. It doesn't make that time any less special," she said. Chikane let her words since in her head.

"Yes, you're right. I'll always keep those wonderful memories that we had together," she said with a small smile. After a while, their food finally came. When Himeko took a bite of her burger, she really loved the taste.

"Mmmm, this is really good, better than McDonalds!"

Chikane smiled and said, "It sure is! Anything's better than crappy McDonald's," She then took a bite of her French fries.

While they were still eating, Himeko brought up Nekoko.

"Ever since we started to hang out a lot, I haven't seen much of Nekoko," she said with a sad pout on her face. "She's still my friend and I don't want to lose our friendship."

Chikane would be more than happy to no longer deal with her but she knew Himeko felt otherwise so she told her, "Sometimes people have other issues and you have to live with that."

"So are you saying I should just give up trying to repair our friendship?" Himeko said with a stunned look on her face.

"No, nothing like that," Chikane quickly corrected herself. She didn't want Himeko to misinterpret what she said. "You should try with all your effort to repair your friendship. What I am trying to say is that if you did try everything and it still didn't work, then you should not beat yourself up because the outcome didn't come out the way you want it to be."

Himeko nodded and said, "Oh okay. Thanks for the suggestion."

"No problem." And they continued to talk about various things while eating their food. One of the topics was about arts and Chikane was amazed at Himeko's knowledge and passion for the subject as she talked passionately and extensively about it. She in returned talked about her passion for music and showed her extensive knowledge of the subject as well. As they were sharing their passions with each other, they were being engaged in each other's world, deeply connecting to each other in a way that went beyond the words they were sharing. They were oblivious to the outside world, enjoying their intimacy that they were not consciously aware of.

As they finished their food, both came to the conclusion in their minds that this was more than just and simple friendship. Himeko was hoping that it would be the start of something wonderful while Chikane was starting to worry if she was beginning to betray her love for Otoha. This was only the beginning however, for the night has yet to come.


They went back to Shinjuku station and pretty much just window-shopped for most of the time, they still had some time to spare before they go to their next destination. When it was around 7:30 PM, they went to Mitsukoshi, a discount department store at the northern end of the building. Neither one of them had any eveningwear so they had to buy some clothes.

When they got there it was very busy since it was Friday evening. They went to the Young Women's department and looked around, looking for anything that would suit their fancy. Chikane saw a stylish blue blouse with some stylish black slacks to match. She also found a pair of black high-heels to match. Himeko took a bit longer, going through two dresses that didn't fit before she found something to her liking, a light blue top with a dark blue skirt and a light blazer to match the skirt. She found some light blue high-heels to go along with the outfit.

There was a small concern in Himeko. She knew what they bought was still expensive, even though they're in a discount store.

"I really like the clothes but can we really afford them?"

"Sure, Himeko-chan. I got it covered." Chikane replied as they were waiting in the checkout line. When they finally got to the cashier, Chikane discreetly pulled out enough cash to pay for the clothes. She didn't want her to know where she got the cash from, making her think that she got it from their work, when in reality she got it from the stolen jewelry she sold.

After they got back to Chikane's place in the station, they changed to their evening clothes in the restroom and hid their own clothes from being stolen. Finally, they went to their destination, Shinjuku Ni-chome.

San Francisco has the Castro District and New York has Greenwich Village, well Tokyo has Shinjuku-Ni-chome, the place to truly ‘be yourself' in Tokyo. This is basically a safe-haven for the non-straights in conservative Tokyo. The area truly caters to the gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transvestites with their bars, cafes, restaurants, gay-pride boutiques, etc.

In all this time she's been living in Shinjuku, Himeko has never set foot at Ni-chome, she didn't see any need to even though she's gay. She has heard about the place from her relatives and from the teachers in her school but only scary and negative things about it, that's what probably put her off going there. For Chikane, that is almost like her second home. Since it's only a few blocks from the station she goes there every now and then, but she doesn't really hit up the areas that require formal ware.

The area is as stereotypically vibrant as one would expect for a gay area, with glittering neon signs displaying its vibrant colors and gay rainbow flags popping up quite often. But it's during the night that the area really shines. The area is probably the liveliest place in all of Tokyo at that time, with its 200-plus nightclubs filling the area, jamming nonstop through the night. They have all types of bars and clubs caters to anybody's type of fancy. Not all the bars and clubs there are gay-themed.

The nightclub Chikane wanted to go to was Yuri Kin, meaning ‘Lily Gold', a classy girls-only bar and nightclub. She heard about this place quite often so she wanted to check it out. This place is so restrictive to women that even the bouncers are females, some of them were bodybuilders.

"Hey, aren't you two a bit too young to be here?" said the female bouncer.

Chikane discreetly pulled out 5,000 yen ($60 USD) and handed it to the bouncer. Himeko knew what she was doing but she let this one slid, knowing better than to interfere what could be a fun time.

"Accept this as a gift." Chikane said with a sly smile.

The bounder smiled in return and took the cash but she warned her, "Don't cause any trouble or you will have to face me."

Chikane nodded and they entered right in. As they entered in, they check out the place. It was a clean yet dimly lit bar with a huge golden chandeliers hanging about the dance floor. The nightclub's décor was black and gold, with chairs and tables elegantly designed in that theme. Even the bar table had a pristine look. The dim lights give it a secretive yet elegantly charming atmosphere. It was certainly an area for the well-to-do female who was a lesbian, bisexual, or just plain curious.

Himeko was in awe of the area, "Wow, this place looks nice," Himeko said.

"It sure does. I can't believe we actually got in with our cheap clothing."

"Yeah, I'm surprised as well."

"Let's head to the bar."

Himeko got nervous when she heard that. "B-but I don't drink."

"You don't have to get alcohol to drink, I'm not. I just need some water."

"Oh ok," she said and she followed Chikane to the bar.

As they got to the bar Himeko got the bartender's attention.

"Excuse me but where's the restroom?"

"Down there," as she pointed to the door at the other end of the club. Himeko thank her and went straight to there. While Himeko stepped out, a beautiful chestnut brown-haired woman came up to Chikane.

"Ara, are you available for a dance?"

Chikane didn't think it would hurt for a simple dance said, "I guess so," as she shrugged.

"Perfect," as she lead Chikane to the dance floor. When they got to the dance floor, some smooth jazz music was playing so it was perfect for a slow dance and for the woman to get to know Chikane better.

"So where are you from?"


"Ah yes, Mahoroba. I've been there before for my skiing trips."

"Really, that must have been interesting."

"Yeah, Mt. Okisawa." Chikane eyes nearly jumped when she heard Mt. Okisawa. It's a skiing resort that caters only to the extremely wealthy. She realized that the type of girl she was dealing with, a very wealthy one. "Have you ever been there?" she asked.

"No, I can't say I have, in fact I don't know how to ski."

"Ah too bad, you don't know what you're missing."

Chikane then asked, "And judging from your accent, you must be from Osaka?"

The lady giggled in amusement and said "No, but you're close. I'm from Kyoto."

"Oh really, I've never been there."

"Poor girl, you don't go out too much?"

"No, not really," she said. She then asked, "Why did you want to dance with me when there are other women out there available."

"Ara, what can I say, I like beautiful bluenettes," she said. She had a good poker face but her crimson red eyes still gave away her true intentions. When Himeko came back she was looking for her but she couldn't find her at the bar, so she went to the dance floor. It was only half way to the dance floor that she spotted her with the other girl. She just stood there stunned at what she was seeing. Something deep inside of her was making her depressed when she saw the other girl making her move on Chikane. She didn't do anything until the girl slid her hands down to Chikane's posterior, much to Chikane's surprise. She was about to slap the girl for her actions when Himeko immediately left the club. Chikane saw that and she abruptly broke off from her and followed Himeko. The girl was surprised that Chikane would do such a thing until she saw her following Himeko, then she realized what was going on. Himeko found a place to sit and then started to cry. She knew very well that Chikane wasn't her girlfriend yet it was painful to see Chikane being interested to someone else. Chikane found her and then sat right next to her.

"Why did you just walk out of there? And why are you crying?"

"What does it matter to you?"

"It matter a lot to me Himeko-chan, you are my close friend."

"But not close enough to be holding you like the way she was."

"Look, I was surprised that she would do that to me, I was about to slap her but you took off. There's nothing going on between me and her, I don't even know that girl. Please believe me, Hime-chan," she said with all the honestly that she can muster up. Himeko looked at those royal blue eyes and saw how sincerely honest she was. Chikane continued on, "In fact, I like for you to come back and dance with me instead." She looked deeply into Himeko's eyes and said softly, "Please?"

Chikane got up from where she was sitting and then offered her hand to Himeko. She hesitated at first but eventually she her hands and they walked back to the club. When they got to the dancefloor, it was some upbeat jazzy music and they started to dance immediately. Himeko, being as uncoordinated as she was, fell a few times but all she did was got back up and continued dancing. Some people laughed at her but she didn't care, she wasn't going to let them ruin her fun time with Chikane. Chikane told her a dance move she could use that would suit her, even for someone who was as clumsy as she was. She tried it and she didn't fall for the rest of the night. It was mostly upbeat stuff for the next hour, and then they started playing the slow jazz music again. Chikane and Himeko were dancing to it and Himeko had her arms wrapping around Chikane's body. Chikane had her arms around Himeko's as they were slow dancing throughout the song. Both were enjoying their slow dance together. Eventually, Himeko laid her head on Chikane's shoulders unconsciously. She couldn't see it but it make Chikane's face blush red. This went on for about thirty minutes before the upbeat music played again.

They were dancing nonstop for two hours before they got tired and decided to go back home. Chikane walked back with Himeko to her tent at the park. When they got there they had some small chit chat.

"Thanks a lot Chikane-chan, this is the best birthday I've ever had!"

"I'm glad you're enjoyed it. It's the best birthday I've even had myself."

"I'm also glad to have the birthday with you, Chikane-chan."

"So am I Hime-chan," After that there was an intimate moment of pause those two had. They just stared at each other affectionately. No words were needed as the attraction was clear between the two. Chikane moved in for the kiss, putting her love for Otoha as far back in her mind as she could. Himeko responded back by slowly moving her head towards Chikane. However, as they were about to kiss a loud noise blasted in the air.


That scream could not have come at a worst time. Nekoko's seizure shattered that intimate moment those two had. Himeko quickly ran to Nekoko's tent and saw her convoluting like crazy. This one didn't look like one of her typical seizures, it looked even worse. She was banging her head on the ground trying to stop the excruciating pain. All the cats where screaming and running away. Chikane followed behind and was surprised at what she was seeing.

"What's going on?"

"She's having one of her seizures and it looks like a terrible one."

"Well, is there anything I can do to help."

"Yes! Get me that syringe over there," as she pointed to the medicine-filled syringe at the table.

"No, don't get me that, nyyyaaahhhh!" Nekoko screamed in maddening pain. Even in life-threatening pain she didn't want a syringe stuck to her. Chikane rushed to get the syringe and handed it to Himeko. At that point, Nekoko's body was violently convoluting and she had no control over it.

"Chikane-chan, grab her while I try to inject the medicine."

"What! Are you crazy? I could be seriously hurt."

"Please, Chikane-chan!" Himeko pleaded. Chikane reluctantly agreed and held on to Nekoko as tightly as she could, holding both her body and her arms. Himeko proceed to stick the needle into one of the veins in her arm and injected the medication. Her seizures gradually subsided and about a few minutes later they went away.

When Nekoko was normal again, she thanked Himeko, "Thanks for helping me. That was a terrible one."

"You're welcome. You should also thank Chikane-chan as well," she said as Chikane was standing next to her, wearing a grin.

When she heard Chikane-chan, she was about to lose her top and said, "Chikane-chan? What!?! You're now close friends with her!?! What are you thinking!?!"

Chikane used this opportunity to one-up her, "Now, now Neko-san, I would calm down if I were you, you might get those seizures again," Chikane advised, yet it was clear in her voice that she was belittling her.

"She's right, Neko-chan," Himeko stated, trying to play down Chikane's mocking.

Nekoko knew they were right and so she quickly calmed herself down. She saw the way they dressed and was starting to wonder if there was more than just friendship between the two.

"You two look nice, where did you go after the convention?"

"We went to Homework's then we went to Yuri Kin at Ni-chome," Himeko said.
That gave off warning bells in Nekoko, thinking they were becoming a couple. She didn't know anything about Yuri Kin but she knows what Ni-chome is all about. Then she remembered that both of them were gay so they probably just hanged out in a gay-friendly area.

"Well, at least you had a fun time. Anyhow, I got to go back to sleep, good night."

She went straight to her sleeping bag and went back to sleep, still in a somewhat bitter mood. Himeko and Chikane left her tent. While they were outside Chikane said, "Look I got to head back to the Station. I'll see you later, okay."

"Okay." Then Himeko gave her a hug, she didn't want to let go but finally, Chikane gently pushed her off and walked to the station. Himeko was wearing a smile while watching her leave, knowing full well that things will never be the same between her and Chikane, and that was a good thing.


Chapter 9

Title: Barriers

[Author's notes:

Japanese Terminology:


Burakumin, or Eta: (From Wikipedia) The burakumin are descendants of outcast communities of the feudal era, which mainly comprised those with occupations considered "tainted" with death or ritual impurity (such as executioners, undertakers or tanners), and traditionally lived in their own secluded hamlets and ghettos.


Akasaka: A well-established business district in the Chiyoda ward.


Ema - wooden plaques that have prayers or wishes on them.


It was early morning and Kazuki rushed to the temple as fast as he could when he heard about the incident. He was visiting an old friend at Osaka when he got an emergency phone call from Souma. When he finally got to the place, he was extremely upset at what he saw. He saw the temple trashed all over the place with some of the sculptures broken or degraded. At the front of the temple, someone spray painted, "STOP HELPING OUT THOSE FAILURES, YOU ARE WASTING OUR OFFERING MONEY!" Another painted message was, "WHAT HAVE THE HOMELESS DONE FOR US LATELY?"

Inside the temple was even worse, the place was literally wrecked. The temple's properties were thrown all over the floor. But the worst was when he saw a beaten Yukihiro. He was beaten up pretty badly. He had a cut on his mouth, bruise marks on his head, and some bandages around his stomach provided by Souma and Makoto.

"What happened to you?!?"

"The black-masked gang came her last night and wrecked the place. I tried to stop them but instead they beat me up."

"Oh my, have you gone to the hospital?"

"No, but I'm fine," he said weakly.

"No, you need to go. You might be internally bleeding, where's Soumo-chan?"

"He's at the back, probably cleaning up."

"Ok, arigato," he said and he went directly to the back of the temple. Over there he saw an angry and irked Souma with an equally steamed Makoto sitting there. Kazuki had to snap them out of it, knowing very well that their loathing won't do them any good.

"Souma-kun and Makoto-chan, sitting there isn't going to help matters."

"No, but smashing the black-mask gang skulls would. I can't believe they would do something like this just because we are helping the homeless! Can't those bastards see that we are trying to improve the community?"

"Well I don't think it's a wise thing to go looking for them, they might kill you Souma-kun. And also, we are trying to improve the community indeed, but they don't see it that way, and the sad part is that most of Japan general population agrees with them. However, we are not going to let that stop us. In fact, I'm planning to do something big."

Yukihito just walked in when he heard Kazuki talking and said, "What's that?"

"Oh Yuki-san, I'm glad you're here. What I'm planning to do is to have something like a big exhibition demonstrating that the homeless are not useless in our societies, and to bring awareness to their problems as well."

"What do you mean?" Makoto inserted.

"I mean there are a lot of talented people who happens to be homeless, for example, Nekoko-san and her circus cats. If I can show the people of Tokyo what they are capable of, then at least we would be able to change their views of them."

"But that's ridiculous, nobody would want to go to some exhibit to learn about people whom they considered to be failures, owww!" Yukihito responded weakly followed by a loud moan. He was not is great shape.

Kazuki took great offense to his comments and replied "They're not failures! They're human beings who got the short end of the stick. Its comments and ignorance like yours that makes their situation even harder. The truth is that people are not aware of their homeless' problems. Anyway, you don't look so good, you need to go to the hospital. Souma-kun, take him to the hospital."

"But onii-chan, my motorcycle wouldn't be a good thing for him to ride on."

"I know that, so here are my car keys," he said as he threw them to Souma and he caught them. "Use my car to take him there. Me and Mako-san will clean up the place."

"Okay onii-chan," he said and he dutifully took Yukihito to the hospital.

After they left Kazuki looked at Makoto and said, "Come on Mako-san, let's start cleaning up, people will be coming in a few hours," and she followed his command.


For Himeko and Chikane, not much has progressed between the two since that night. In fact it seems that Chikane was somewhat distancing herself from her. She comes for the training and for their work, but they don't interact as much as they used to, nor does Chikane visit her at the tent anymore. Could it be that Chikane is still hung up on Otoha? Or is it that Himeko is still friends with Nekoko? Either way, it was making her sad. The good thing though is that she's been hanging out with Nekoko more often. Their friendship was not what it used to be but it was better than it was on her birthday. Nekoko was either oblivious to her sadness or that she didn't want to bring it up, for she never talked about it. But for Himeko that was all the better, she really didn't feel like discussing it. She didn't think Nekoko would fully understand, or she thought that she would use it to drive a wider wedge between her and Chikane. She felt a bit of frustration in the predicament she was in. She didn't know what do, she prayed, wished, and hoped but they didn't seem to work. Nevetheless, she knew she had to take her mind off it, but what else could she do. As she was looking at her artwork, she saw her drawing of her art teacher, Kuu-sensei. She then remembered that she was going to send her an email. She thought it couldn't be a better time, so she left her tent and went to an Internet café.

The café is nothing special. It's just a somewhat cramped place with a few computes. Himeko paid the worker for an hour of usage and then sat at one of the empty computers. She remembered the security advices Chikane gave her so that no one could trace her email, thus she went to an anonymous email site. Finally she began typing the email to her art teacher:

Dear Kuu-sensei, it's me, Kurusugawa Himeko. How are you doing? I am doing fine myself, in fact better than when I was at Mahoroba. I just want to let you know that I am okay and well. I am now living in another city since this summer. Over here I made new friends and had much more fun than I ever did at Mahoroba.

I also met someone special as well, her last name is Himemiya, can't tell you her first name. I really like her a lot but I don't know if she feels the same way about me. I though she did when we celebrated our birthday but lately she's been rather cold to me. I wish I could talk to you right now, because you probably know what to do about it. And yes, I'm gay, but I knew that before I came here, all because of a yuri manga magazine I saw a some teacher's desk :)

There's something else I want to tell you. The reason why I ran away is because I want to get away from my relatives. They locked me up in the house and have abused me verbally and physically. They've done many terrible things to me. I can't tell you exactly what they've done to me because they bring painful memories and make me cry. I also want to get away from my schoolmates who used to pick on me and tease me for being weird, wimpy, stupid, etc. Because of them, I never thought positive of myself, but that's started to change. I am not weird, nor am I wimpy or stupid, and I don't want to come back to Mahoroba ever again!

However, I will never forget you sensei. I'll never forget you kindness and your sweetness, and for always being there for me, no matter what the situation was. And I thank you for it very much, for you were one the few bright moments in my life at Mahoroba.

In all, I just want to tell you that I'm okay. Hopefully we will see each other again, but if we don't I just want to tell you thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Kurusugawa Himeko.

Whe she was done, she double checked her email and hit the submit button, hoping that the mail went through. She went back to her tent and spent some with Nekoko and played with the cats.


The next day she met Chikane and headed to the gym to do their usual training, and then they went and set up their place outside the station to do their work. Chikane was playing her music on her keyboard. Her hand has healed and she was using her favorite instrument, the piano/keyboard. She found a full-sized one at the dumpster.

Himeko really wanted to ask what was going on inside of her. Why was she turning cold on her all of a sudden after they were about to get very close. It was just that she was afraid that she might lose her. That was the last thing she wanted to happen. While they were doing their usual, Makoto and Souma saw them.

"Hey Hime-san and Chika-san, how are you doing?" she said with her typical perkiness.

"Oh we're fine, how are you two doing?" Himeko asked.

"Not fine at all. Our temple has been desecrated."

"Oh my! That's too bad," Himeko replied.

"Yes, and it's all because we're trying to make a difference in the community by helping out the homeless," Souma angrily noted.

When Chikane heard that, she knew exactly who was behind it.

"Let me guess, the black-masked group?"

"Yes, absolutely. Because of what just happened, onii-chan wants to hold an exhibit for the homeless people, hoping that it might change the public's perception of them. He wants us to look for homeless people in this area who has any sort of displayable talent to join us for that day."

Himeko and Chikane just looked at each other and then Chikane said, "So you want us to be a part of this exhibit?"

Souma and Makoto nodded their heads to a yes.

"Well I don't know, are we going to get paid for this?"

"Unfortunately no, we have the place insured but it doesn't cover everything, and a good deal of our money is making the exhibition happen, so we don't have any to give. We will provide a free meal, courtesy of local restaurants, if you do participate," Makoto noted.

Chikane was mulling over it for a bit, favoring on the side of ‘no', but Himeko thought otherwise.

"I would like to participate. I have many drawings and photos that I would like to share to everyone." Chikane was about to object but Himeko continued, "Chikane-chan, this is a perfect opportunity to showcase your music skills, especially on the piano."

"Aren't I doing that already here outside?"

"But it's not the same. People aren't really that interested, they too busy trying to get somewhere, but at least you have a chance for everyone to fully listen to your music," Himeko elated. Chikane wanted to say no but she did see Himeko's point. It was an opportunity for people to see another side of Chikane, not the cold, bitchy, and calculating side everyone is familiar with. But what bothered her was that she will be near Himeko for a long time, she didn't want that for a reason only known to Chikane herself. She had strong feelings for Himeko but she felt best if it was not acted upon. Nevertheless, Chikane agreed to participate in the exhibition.

"Okay, I'll join," Chikane said with her usual dead seriousness.

"I'm glad to hear that!" Makoto replied with her usual perkiness.

"That's great! The exhibition will start in noon at the Sumitomo Fudosan warehouse near the Koma theatre two weeks from today. Hope to see you girls there!" Souma said and they left the area.

As they left, Himeko elated, "Wow, a lot more people get to see my artwork!"

"I'm glad to see you being excited about it. I remember when you were afraid to show them to people, thinking that they won't like it," Chikane remembered like it was yesterday. So did Himeko but she realize the change in her from what she was over a month ago.

"Yeah I do remember, but I can't wait to show them my work!" she elated happily.

"After we're done here, let's go visit the sensei and see what he really wants. I don't think it's that open-ended, but who knows?"

"That sounds like a good idea, Chikane-chan," she said and they went back to their jobs. When the evening sky was giving way to the night, Himeko and Chikane wrapped up their stuff and they went to the temple. While they were looking for him, they saw some of the remaining damages caused by the masked group.

"This was such a beautiful place, why would they do such a thing?" Himeko asked such a thing.

"Because they are intolerant idiots," Chikane said bluntly.

As soon as they spotted them they went up to him immediately bowed to him in respect. After that Chikane spoke first.

"You must be Oogami-sensei?"

"Yes I am, and you must be the blue-haired girl who plays the music outside the station."

"Yes I am, my name is Himemiya Chikane, and this is my partner, Kurusugawa Himeko."

"How are you doing Kurusugawa-san?" he said followed by a respectful bow.

"Fine thank you sensei," she replied and bowed back respectfully.

"Don't be surprise that I know who you are, my brother Souma-kun told me about you two and I've seen you two many times outside. How can I help you ladies?"

"We just want to know more about the exhibition that you are having two weeks from now," Chikane said formally.

"Ah yes, the exhibition. Well I'm trying to show everybody around here that the homeless are not worthless. I want to use this exhibition not only to bring awareness to the homeless situation, but to show that homeless people can be valuable to our economy and to our society. Who knows, maybe some of them might get jobs out of this."

"I see," Chikane replied. "But how can we contribute to your exhibit? Do you really think our skills are suitable for your exhibit?"

"Absolutely. Chikane-sama, with your musical skills, especially on piano, you can bring a wonderful atmosphere to our exhibit. And Himeko-sama, your artistic skills are simply amazing for someone your age, from what I've seen. Do you have any that reflects homeless life?"

"I sure do. I shot many photos of the homeless and did a few drawings on them."

"That's good to hear. You can bring your other drawings as well. I would like to use your drawings and photos to show what its like to be homeless, is that okay with you?"

"No problem whatsoever," she said with a smile and Kazuki returned back his own small smile. While Kazuki was talking to the ladies, Souma and Yukihito were watching them from a distance in interest, in particular Yukihito.

"Check out those two homeless chicks, they're hot even with those dirty clothes!"

"Them? Oh, those are the ones who do the drawings and the painting outside the station. The blond one did that drawing of me and Mako-chan."

"Oh yeah, I do see them when I walk by the station, but they're still some hot chicks."

"Yeah they are, especially the blond one," Souma said as he looked at Himeko.

"Oh so you got eyes on the blond one, huh? Man, if Mako-chan found out, she'll beat you with a baseball bat!"

"Man, will you stop it! You know I only got eyes for Mako-chan, no one else."

"Of course you do, cuz you're whipped!" Yukihito jested.

"No I'm not! I'm just very loyal and faithful to her, she knows that I'm in charge of the relationship," Souma cockily defended.

"Sure... Every time she asked you to do something, you do it. When we go out, you always tell her where we are going and you never stay late with us. Hell, with the fact that she hardly wears skirts and dresses and that she cuts her hair short, I'm wondering if she is ‘the man' in the relationship." Yukihito joked at Souma's expense. Souma was slowly getting angry at him questioning his manhood even though he was doing it in a kidding matter. Nevertheless, Yukihito continued, "Like I said, you're whipped," he joked once again and the discussion concluded with him making a whip sound effect.

"Oh shut up Yuki-san," he said followed by a poke to his still-bandaged rips. Now it was Souma who was laughing at his best friend's expense.

"OWW, Don't do that! You know it still hurts!"

"I know," Souma devilishly smiled. "And if I were you, I would be very careful what comes out of my mouth," he said and he poked him again. Another smile radiated from his face and Yukihito yelled a bit louder. Unfortunately, it got Kazuki's attention.

"What's going on with you two?" Kazuki promptly asked with his no-nonsense attitude as he approached them.

"Souma-san is being retarded sensei."

"Not as much as you are, Yuki-san."

"Stop acting like ten year olds, we got company here and you should know how to behave when we have people here. Anyhow, Souma-kun you know these girls already but I assumed that Yuki-san doesn't. This is Himemiya Chikane and Kurusugawa Himeko."

"No I can't say that I've met them before but I can honestly say it's nice meeting you two. My name is Tachibana Yukihito," he said with a polite bow to the two girls. "Allow me to show you around the area, event though we're still under repair."

"I think not. Yukihito-san, go help out with Souma-kun in cleaning this place up, I'll show the girls around," he said sternly and he returned his attention back to the girls. When he and the girls walked away, Yukihito voiced his displeasure to his best friend.

"I can't believe your brother, he is such a cockblocker."

"Dude, don't worry about it. You will see them again. I seriously doubt that they will find someone new within two weeks."

"Man, you never know," he said. Souma inadvertently changed the subject.

"By the way, can I come to your house this weekend? I want to play you in some Tennis on your Playstation 2."

Yukihito got nervous and said, "Ano, this weekend won't be good."

"Why not? I haven't been there in almost two months."

"Because me and my family are cleaning up this weekend," he said.

"But I thought you did that last week?"

"Well, we got more stuff to clean up," he answered nervously. Souma knew he was hiding something, but he decided it was best not to bring it up, so he just said okay and they move on to something else.

After the meeting with Kazuki, Himeko and Chikane headed back to their own places. Chikane started to think what songs she will play while Himeko gathered most of the photos and drawings she had relevant to the exhibit, plus a few other drawings.


About a half hour after arriving, Himeko told Nekoko and the visiting Natashi about the planned exhibit. Natashi liked it but Nekoko had mixed feelings about it.

"I seriously doubt it will work. I know Oogami-sensei has good intentions but I really don't know if it will work at all."

However Natashi disagreed, "I think it will work. I think it will show some attention as to who we are and what we are all about. It's also a perfect opportunity to show a group that makes up a significant portion of the homeless."

"Who's that?" Himeko asked?

"The Burakumin."

Himeko eyes widen when she heard that, so she asked, "Are you a burukumin?"

"Yes I am. Many of us are homeless simply because of job discrimination. It's not as bad here as it is out west in areas like Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, but it still occurs as I found out the hard way."

"What happened?" Himeko said with sincere concern.

"I was an IT manager for the Tokigawa Health Insurance, located at the Akasaka district in Chiyoda. I was very successful at my job, making 984,000 yen (120,000 USD) a year and was groomed to be the next Chief Information Officer. Unfortunately, due to company's several bad investments and that everlasting recession, they were facing bankruptcy. Then the Osaka-based Fujimoto Insurance bought them out. When they bought out my company, they laid off hundreds of workers. I ended up being one of them, but I shouldn't have been, they were only firing the regular workers and a few lower-level managers. Most of the upper-level managers were kept, except me. I knew something was suspicious so I hired a private detective to investigate the company. He found out that they discovered that I grew up in a burakumin area near Osaka. I thought I hid it from them but later on I found out that they had a book telling them all the burakumin's settlements. Basically, they used the downsizing opportunity to get rid of me.

I was fine for a while but my finances started to dwindle when I couldn't find anybody willing to hire me. They basically had me blackballed from the industry. Plus my wife divorced me and won some of my money, so that did some damage as well. Before long, I was kicked out of my apartment, had my car taken away from me and I ended up being homeless. So I do want to bring up what they considered a taboo subject, because making it taboo makes it hard to bring awareness to the discrimination."

Himeko was amazed at his story and how much he went through. Nekoko got inspired by his story, even though she heard it a few times.

"I never saw it like that, maybe I can raise awareness for animal abuse while still entertaining the crowd."

"Yeah, and who knows, maybe someone can help you achieve your goal of owning your own animal shelter," Himeko happily noted.

"You might be right Himeko, there could be a lot out of this. Let me do some thinking and planning for the exhibit," Nekoko said while being lit up.

"And when I get back to my place, I will go ahead and plan my exhibit on the Burakumins and homelessness," he said.


The day has come for the exhibit. There were quite a few homeless people in the warehouse. They were getting ready for what they wanted to present. Himeko got her paintings, drawings and and photos set up. Chikane was sitting at a grand piano that Kazuki rented. Nekoko had all her performing cats there and she was setting up the equipment. Natashi, with some help from Himeko, had a small display showing info on the burakumin. There were also other homeless people participating in the event. What was surprising was that a lot of people came to see the exhibit and they varied from businessmen and upper-class people to regular workers and even some of the homeless who were not participating.

Girochi was there to supervise the building. He was standing right next to Kazuki and was rather surprised at all the people attending.

"Wow sensei, I'm really impressed. I didn't think you would get all these people here in such a short time."

"Well, I got to thank Makoto's marketing skills on that one. She really pushed this event on her blog and on her MySpace page. It's just too bad that your sister couldn't come."

"Yeah, she had to work at the monastery today. She really wanted to come."

"Yeah, I know she would have," he said with some disappointment in his voice.

While sitting on the grand piano's stool, Chikane was wearing a grumpy face. Himeko, who was right beside her, was very concerned about it so she brought it up.

"Why are you so mad? Today's the day you get to show how good you are on the piano."

Chikane looked at Himeko first and then she looked at her object of hatred and said, "Because she is here."

Himeko turned around to take a look and saw Corona walking towards Chikane. Corona got the news about the exhibit, and being the big-time attention hog that she was, she jumped at the opportunity to showcase her singing talent. The few times Himeo met her, she always put Himeko down, this time was no different.

"Well hello there old friend, I haven't seen you much since you started to hang out with this little girl here?" she said while looking at Himeko with irrelevant apathy.

Chikane looked at her with spite and said, "She's not a little girl, she's more of a woman than you'll ever be and I would like for you to show her some respect."

Corona just blew her off, saying, "Whatever. Oogami-sensei said he would like for us to perform a few songs together. Do you remember the songs we used to do together in the station?"

"Yes I do very well," she said, clearly showing her annoyance to Corona.

"Well that's good, you do have some value after all," she said. Chikane's anger was quietly rising inside of her. "Anyways, since this is supposed to be a classy environment, let's go ahead and do Moon River, do you remember that one?"

"Of course I do, I told you about that song," she said with a matter-of-fact tone. Himeko saw the anger building up insider of her, so she did her best of trying to bring it down to a simmer.

"Moon River, that's a beautiful song, I would love to hear you play it."

That brought a temporary smile on her face but she became serious again when she said, "Okay, but I'm only doing this for you."

Himeko smiled after that and then Chikane started to play. Corona sang the song and most of the people in the warehouse took notice. She performed the song well, event though there were some parts where she overdid it due to her showing off nature, much to Chikane's chagrin. Nonetheless, the crowd applauded for their performance, include Himeko. Amongst the crowd were Souma and Yukihito.

"Oh my, she actually uses her throat for something else!" Yukihito said.

Souma couldn't help but laugh, "What do you mean?" Souma naïve questioned.

"When me and my friends were walking through the red-light district, we saw here there selling her pussy."

Souma was shocked to hear that, he never knew about this. "Who went with you?"

Yukihito hesitated for a while, trying to come up with an answer, "Oh some new friends you haven't met. Look, I got to help out sensei in a few things," and he promptly left. Souma was beginning to sense something wasn't right.

After their Moon River performance, Chikane and Corona performed two more songs, but with the way Corona sang them, they lasted as long as four songs! In particular, this one song that happened to be a little over four minutes, but somehow she managed to stretch it beyond eight minutes!

"Did you ever know that you're my heeeeroooooooo? You're everything that IiiIIIiii wanted to beeeeeeeee. Did you ever know that you're my heeeero-O-o-o-O-o-o? Cause you are the wings... beneath... my... wings."

Corona kept on extending the words and adding unnecessarily pauses to the song. Chikane was doing her best to hold her anger and to keep up with her. Her cold exterior hid the frustration that Corona was inadvertently causing. Apparently, Chikane wasn't the only one who wasn't impress with Corona's singing. Hana was in the crowds watching her sing, and he had enough of her as well. So after she finished the song, he came up to the platform and too the microphone from her.

"Corona, do you know how to sing a song properly!"

"What the hell do you mean?" she barked back to him.

"I mean just that. You're fucking up on the hooks and you're overextending on the words. You're not singing like how a real diva should." he said as he went up to the stage. Without a care for Corona's or anybody else's consideration, he rudely push her, "Girl, step back and takes some note while I'm up here. Watch how a true diva sings."

Chikane was finally relieve from Corona's singing, thinking things will be better under Hana, that was until he started to sing.

"Hey, hey, I will sur-sur-survive..."

Chikane lightly shook her head in despair while playing that worn out disco song. She knew it was going to be a long day...

Meanwhile, quite a people were looking at Himeko's artwork and photos. They were amazed that such a young girl could produce such artistic masterpieces. Most of them were about the lives of the homeless, good and bad. She wanted to show all aspects of their lives so that people can see that they are no different from them. She wanted her paintings to build a ‘relation' with the guests, to get them into their own world. She did have other artwork not relating to any homeless theme, and there was one that caught many people's attention, including Chikane, who somehow managed to find time to take a break. It was a painting of her and Himeko together holding hands together with their backs facing. Chikane's side was dark with the moon shining at the top while Himeko's side was bright with the sun shining. The painting had a profound impact on her that she didn't want. She had to know a little bit more about the painting.

"What is this painting called?"

"I called it Memories. It's basically us looking back at our lives together through our perception."

"Together?" Chikane questioned.

"Yes, together," Himeko said with some sadness in her voice. She was trying to make it clear to her how she was currently feeling about their relationship. Chikane shed a tear and told her, "I don't think it's a good idea." Then she immediately went back to the piano and waited for Corona to continue singing. Himeko wanted to talk to her about it but she was interrupted by a man who wanted to know more about her paintings.

There was also another picture that brought a lot of interest, but one of mixed feelings and controversy. It was a painting of Himeko showing a young homeless man sitting in the cold with a message below saying, "There are over ten thousand teens that are homeless simply because their parents did not approve their sexuality."

One woman saw the painting and came up to Himeko, "That painting of yours sends a false sympathy message, just like that dirty eta over there. Why should we be sympathetic to those queers? Well that's what they get for being gay, they should be on the streets."

Himeko got angry at the woman's comments and showed a rare side of her anger.

"We don't belong on the streets. We are human beings and we don't deserve to be treated like wild animals, nor do the burakumins. Loving someone of the same sex is not a crime, so it shouldn't be treated as such!"

"So you are one of them?" she sneered with a disgusted look on her face. Himeko didn't let that faze her when she responded.

"Yes I am and I don't see anything wrong with that!"

Kazuki heard the bickering between the two, so he came over there and intervened.

"Why are you having problems with her painting?"

"Because she is trying to use her painting for us to sympathize for their sickness, and so is that filthy Eta with his display!"

"Their sickness? What's wrong with them? How is homosexuality a sickness? It has been proven by well qualified psychologist that it's not a sickness. And even if it is a sickness, that still doesn't give a parent the right to kick their children out. Parents should care for their children, no matter what. Also what makes an Eta filthy? Because they were force to do work that is considered disgusting to everyone else. That doesn't make them filthy."

"Both of them are filthy, they bring shame to our great society," she idiotically boasted.

"They're not bringing shame to our society. They're not doing anything to harm or bring down our society. Just like the homeless, they are wrongly judged of bringing shame to our society. You know what? It seems that you are just going to cause more trouble here so I'm going to politely ask you to leave the exhibit. Girochi-san, please escort the lady out of this building."

"No problem sensei. Ma'am, I will have to escort you out of this building."

Just about a minute after the woman got escorted, Kazuki came up to his brother.

"Souma-kun. The trash can near the wall is starting to fill up. Can you take it out?"

"Sure, no problem."

"Thank you."

Souma then got the trash and went out to the back. When he got there he saw a teal-haired man digging through the trash. Souma stopped in his tracks, wondering if this person is who he thought he was. He was too far to see his face, but his figure was familiar to Souma.

"Could this be my brother?" he was thinking. He wasn't sure since the man hasn't looked up yet. About a few seconds later he finally looked up. The first time he only looked at him for a split-second before he was about to return back to his trash digging. But when he did his double take he immediately froze, looking as Souma. It was by no reasonable doubt that it was Tsubasa.

"Onii-chan?" Souma said.

Tsubasa didn't say a word at first, just glaring at him. Souma was slowly walking up to him when he called him out again. This time Tsubasa respond.

"Who are you?"

By then Souma was only a few feet away from him, "I'm Souma, your brother."

"You're my baby brother?"

"Yes, It's me, Souma, you're baby brother."

"Baby brother?"

"Yes, baby brother," Souma replied, not fully understanding how disoriented he was due to his schizophrenia. Slowly Souma came up to him, all the while Tsubasa kept on saying 'baby brother'. Eventually, Souma got close enough to him to hug him, but Tsubasa was still in his dazed state, just saying 'baby brother.' Souma was able to hug him for about fifteen seconds, but then suddenly and unexpectedly, Tsubasa forcefully pushed him off. The force was great enough to send Souma flying backwards towards the trash cans. Kazuki and Girochi was nearby when they heard the crash.

"What was that?" Girochi asked to Kazuki.

"I don't know, but it sounded like it came from outside. Let's check it out."

Girochi nodded his head in agreement and they headed to the back.

Meanwhile, Tsubasa's schizophrenic state was becoming more apparent. "Baby brother you not! Baby brother you not! You lie! You lie!"

"It's really me onii-chan! You got to believe me!" Souma said while still lying on the trashcans.

"You lie! You lie!" he shouted.

Things were about to get dangerous when he pulled out his knife. Souma was scared and he immediately got up. Only a second later did Kazuki and Giroch opened the back door. Tsubasa instantly saw them and ran away quickly. Souma screamed, "Come back Onii-chan! Please come back!"

The two only had a short time to look, but it was long enough for them to know who it was. Girochi chased after Tsubasa but he was able to disappear after he fled the alley. Kazuki checked up on Souma to see if he's alright.

Girochi ran back to where Souma and Kazuki was and asked Souma, "Was that Tsubasa-san?"

"Yes it was," he replied in sadness, with his head hanging down.

"I'm glad that you're not hurt," Kazuki mentioned. "Look, let's get back inside and help"

Girochi was surprised at how Kazuki quickly brushed it off, "but he went through a traumatic experience. You can't just expect him to get back to work after what just happened."

"Well, letting him sit there and cry about it won't solve things, would it? I don't think so. We have an exhibition to run and it's going to need all the manpower available to run it."

Girochi wanted to protest but he knew very well that it wouldn't work. While that was going, some else was about to take shape. Corona, being unceremoniously kicked off the platform, was at the corner sulking. Yukihito saw this and went up to her.

"I can't believe that okama kicked up off there like that."

"Yeah, well that fairy an egotistical ass," she hypocritically noted.

"Well aren't they all are? A bunch of drama queen pansies?"

Corona laughed and then turned her head to face Yukihito, "Yeah, but he's like that stupid catgirl that runs the park, acting self-righteous and thinking they are making things better for the rest of us, yeah right!"

"So I see. Well maybe I can make things better for you, actually I can make things better for the both of us."

Corona knew what he mean, so she responded, "Man, you're so predictable. I know what will make you feel better," she seductively smirk. "But there's no private place around here."

Yukihito smirked back in return and said, "I know one, follow me." And he lead her to a closet far away from the main area.

Besides the confrontations, the exhibit went better than expected. It actually lasted until five in the evening, which by that time in early November, the sun has already set. It left a positive and informative impact on the guests and proved that homeless people are not worthless. It also brought awareness to other issues such as animal abuse and discrimination. Nekoko's cat circus entertained and amazed the folks. Chikane 's musical performances kept the crowd entertained, despite the switch between Corona and Hana and how they tested her patience with their long-winded singing. Natashi's display brought more awareness to a subject that is considered taboo in Japan. And so did Himeko's artwork and photos. Plus, she enlightened the people about the homeless and their dilemmas. In all, it was a success.

Himeko needed help carrying her artwork back to the tent so Chikane reluctantly pitched in and carried the remaining artwork with her. They didn't say anything on their way back to the park, and they didn't say much in the tent when they were putting away the stuff.

After they were done, Chikane said good bye but she didn't go back to the station, instead she went to the other side of the park and sat on the bench, looking at the moon. It was one of her favorite activities. She didn't know that Himeko was following her all that time. She figured that now was the time for her and Chikane to have a serious talk...


Chapter 10

Title: Tsuki-Ni Yorisotte

Tsuki-Ni Yorisotte (Being close to the moon)


As she sat on the bench, Chikane realized it was only seven in the evening, but the thoughts that were swimming through her mind felt like they had been sailing for days. She wasn't sure what she should be thinking, or feeling for that matter. Unbeknownst to her, Himeko was only a few feet away, having followed her through the night. Similar thoughts were making their way through Himeko's mind as well. The young girl was biting her lower lip in anticipation as she moved closer to Chikane.

The last thing she wanted to do was to say something that'll cause Chikane to distance herself even more, creating an awkwardness that couldn't be avoided. If anything, Himeko wanted them to become closer but because of Chikane's current thoughts, badgering her mind, she felt that was impossible. With her art, it seems Himeko could entertain anyone, shyness aside. But when it came to everything else, especially Chikane, she felt as if her timidity was an inevitable feat that couldn't be controlled. As Himeko approached the older girl, Chikane's silhouette in the moonlight looked almost surreal as she sensed Himeko's presence, speaking softly.

"I really enjoy looking at moon."

"Why is that?" Himeko questioned, stepping closer to the girl.

"Because it looks so beautiful in the night sky. I always wanted to know what it's like to be over there," Chikane said languidly as she turned her half-lidded eyes to the younger girl.

Himeko replied, fingers idly toying with each other, "From what I read in school and from what I saw on TV, there's nothing on the moon. It's gray, empty and it has no air. Most likely you won't be able to go there, nobody has been there since the Apollo missions." However Chikane shrugged, smiling to herself.

"I know that, but I would like to go to a place where you don't have to worry about people hurting you or you hurting others."

Himeko started to understand where this was going, so she said, "Maybe nobody will hurt you but then how will you live?" The silence loomed, but it wasn't uneasy. Chikane looked up and over at Himeko, who's fingers were still laced as she stood, nervously watching the older girl warily.

Chikane was a bit bewildered at what Himeko just said, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, yes, nobody will hurt you but then you will have nobody to share anything with. That's how we grow, we share our feelings, thoughts, and emotions. We do hurt others, either intentionally or unintentionally, but as long as we are alive we will be fine. After all, what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger," Himeko noted, moving closer to the girl.

Chikane felt the corner of her eyes begin to water after she said that. The emotions welling up inside Chikane were beginning to take its effect as stray tears escaped, falling down her pale cheeks under the moonlight. Himeko could see some sort of fear in her watered eyes through the luminescence. Himeko bit her lower lip, speaking softly to an audience of two, "What are you afraid of?"

"The last thing I want to do is to hurt you..." Chikane whispered, looking away somewhat. Now it all makes sense to Himeko as to why she was distancing herself from her. The brisk small talk, how she rarely made eye contact, or how she'd avoid allowing herself to get too close, Himeko knew now why. Chikane was trying to protect her.

The older girl continued, "I've already lost Otoha and it would kill me if I lost you too. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if anything ever happened to you and I was forced to live this life without you," Chikane reached up, grasping Himeko's hands within her own tightly. Waves of sapphire blue crashed against the amethyst sea as they gazed into each others eyes, each now glistening with tears unshed. Himeko moved to sit beside her as Chikane grew lost within her eyes, "You're too good for me, Himeko. You can do so much better..." As she finished, her shoulders began to shake as the tears soon fell at a rate that was unstoppable.

Himeko's eyes soon shed tears at the sheer thought of Chikane being tormented over this, moving to quickly console her grieving friend, "No, Chikane-chan, don't ever think like that! I know deep down you love me too much to ever hurt me," As Himkeo spoke, Chikane looked up at the girl, sniffling. Himeko smiled softly as she continued, "I know you'll always be here to protect me. Losing Otoha wasn't your fault. You two did what you thought was the only way to get out of a terrible situation," Chikane closed her eyes as Himeko's fingers danced against her cheek, thumb slowly brushing away stray tears.

"Nobody's perfect in this world and there will never be a perfect relationship, but I want you to know that you make me feel like I'm on top of the world. I've never felt this way before and I would rather have my life be spent with you than anyone else. My heart is totally and unconditionally committed to you," Himeko said softly. She felt Chikane's hand hold hers against her cheek as Himeko just put her heart and soul on the line as their eyes met once more, pale moonlight, draping over them like a celestial blanket. Chikane's heart skipped a beat as the thought of Himeko confessing her love caused emotions long stored away to come out of the confines of her mind.

" love me. Do you...really mean it?"

"With all my heart," Himeko said as she reached up with her free hand to wipe her eyes. Chikane turned and kissed the palm of Himeko's hand softly. The action caused a small blush to form on her cheeks. Himeko's smile was still radiant in the luminescent moonlight; in fact it took Chikane's breath away.

As Himeko watched Chikane carefully, she cited a quotes the truly touched her heart, "Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you. Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die - there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you," Chikane blinked, Himeko's sudden devotion to being with her no matter what caused her heart to flutter within her chest.

Chikane dried her eyes, smiling lightly, she knew where that quote came from, "That's from the Bible, when Ruth told Naomi how much she loved her. I remember Otoha telling me that after we had a Bible study on Ruth in the orphanage."

Himeko nodded her head in confirmation and said, "Yes, that's exactly where I got it from."

"But Hime-chan, why did you choose that quote? You know that I'm not big on religion," Chikane's eyes travelled curiously along Himeko as the girl shrugged slightly.

"Because I thought it was a beautiful way Ruth showed her commitment to Naomi and how much she loved her. It's the same commitment that I have for you and to show how much I love you." Chikane's eyes widened when she heard that. But the night grew to a stand still the moment Chikane caught on that Himeko was moving closer. They held their breath as they clutched each other's hands, eyes slowly drawing to a close as the moonlight caressed their skin.

The feeling of Himeko's warm lips pressing on her own in a fervent kiss made Chikane feel intoxicated with heavenly delight. It was clear to her that she was meant to be with Himeko, regardless of what other people think. This was more wonderful than the first kiss she got from Otoha. The feeling was overwhelming to the point where Chikane never wanted it to end. It barely lasted over a minute but it felt like a blissful eternity for the both of them.

When they finally broke their kiss, they slowly opened their eyes, staring into each others depths as Chikane pulled Himeko into a loving embrace. She never wanted to let go. The cold night air wasn't enough to deter the lovers as the warmth within their hearts was enough to keep the chill from the night at bay.

For the rest of the night, they sat there looking at the moon, coupled with the small talk they had together. Now Himeko knows what it's like being close to the moon, and she hopes that she'll never have to return.


[End notes: I would like to thank L337_Ninja_Girl making this story 300 times better than what I originally wrote! Thank you so much!

Well that's it for part one of the story. Finally Himeko and Chikane is now a couple! But that's only the beginning. There is still an adventurous journey ahead for the new couple. Now that they found love what are they going to do with it?


Chapter 11

Title: Now That We Got Love, What Are We Going To Do With It? Part 1 of 2

[Author's notes:


Yeah I got this time from an old song by Third World...



Hello everybody, I know it's been a long time since I've posted a story, but a project that took much longer than expected have kept me busy.

This is actually Part 1 of 2 of Chapter 11. The chapter was very long so I decided to break it up into two parts for my beta reader. I'll post the second part when she's done with it.

Also, I have updated Chapter 9. This is important because this chapter does refer to the updated version of Chapter 9. It's in the middle of this story, where Souma talks about his confrontation with his brother, which wasn't in the original version. So I'll sum up what was added in Chapter 9:

Anyways, thank you for you patience, and now here's part 1 of Chapter 11.


Two weeks has passed since that wonderful night for Himeko, as she finally got herself a girlfriend after declaring her love to Chikane. Himeko thought that for once things were finally going up in her life. She has her own place, she got some good friends, she also got a successful business going, and now she got herself a lover. Those things overshadow her homelessness situation.
It was November and the fall weather was apparent in Tokyo, as the grass started to turn brown and the leaves on the trees started to change color. There was no other place in Tokyo to watch the natural beauty of autumn than at the world-renowned Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. What was once an imperial garden available only to royalty is now a national park, but it still hasn't lost its beauty. Next to the Hanami period, the fall time is the best time to visit the park.
As such, Himeko and Chikane were at the park on a cool and crisp late morning, looking at the beautiful scenery surrounded them. The leaves on the trees around them were turning into beautiful rich colors of yellow, red, orange and brown. It was a perfect place for Himeko to take in the scenery like a little kid while taking pictures and enjoying her quality time with Chikane.
"Chikane-chan, thanks for coming with me. I've heard about this place and seen pictures of it, but the pictures can't really capture the true beauty of this place, and I don't think my pictures would either," she said with a bit of disappointment. But Chikane knew she was just kidding, so Chikane chuckled.
"Hehe, nothing beats physical experience, but I'm sure with your aesthetic skills you'll somehow find a way to capture the beauty."
"I hope so," she said with her usual doubt. Chikane looked at her with care and reassured her the best that she can.
"I know you can. Besides, Oogami-sensei was so impressed with your artwork and photos, he wanted to have them at his temple."
"Are you sure that he didn't do it out of charity?" she asked with concern.
"A guy like that don't do things like that for charity," Chikane confirmed. "He's really a no-nonsense type so unless he sees it as beneficial, he won't do it." That did help Himeko fell somewhat better, but that lingering voice was in her making her doubt what Chikane was saying. She remembered what she told her when they were going to the convention, so she just let it continue on and focused on something else.
"I like autumn, it's very beautiful, especially at Mahoroba, but it's somewhat sad as well."
Chikane was a bit puzzled at what Himeko was saying and asked, "Huh? Why you say that?"
"Because it means that it's the end of things. Lots of trees and plants die and it starts to get cold."
"That's true but it's the preparation for the coming spring. Things do die, but something new comes out of it."
"Just like our lives?" she asked?
Chikane didn't quite understand her, so she asked, "Exactly what do you mean?"
"I mean we went through a lot in our lives and maybe now its finally coming to an end. Maybe now we can start looking forward to a brighter future. We may not had a wonderful childhood and right now, we're homeless, but it doesn't mean we will be like this forever."
After she finished, a tear came down Chikane's eyes. Himeko saw it and wiped it off. "I hope so. I don't want to live like this forever," she sniffled, yet trying her best not to cry.
Himeko saw how much the stress in her life took on her lover, so she sat at a nearby bench with her. While having her left arm wrapped around Chikane's abdomen, she brushed Chikane's hair to comfort her.
"This won't last forever. I'm sure we're going to find a permanent place. Maybe if I do find my mama, then we can stay with her."
Chikane wasn't so sure about it. Based on her own life experiences, she can see quite a few problems arising.
"Yeah, but what if we don't find her? What if we actually do find her but she doesn't want to have anything to do with me? What if she doesn't approve our relationship and reports us to the police? What if I get caught and am sent back to that hellhole? What if you get caught and are sent back to your nutcase relatives? What if we never see each other again? I don't even want to think about that one!" Chikane stated with tears running down her eyes. Himeko knew that pain, it was the same pain she had on that night she confessed her love to her.
"Nobody will separate us. If we have to move out of this country, then so be it, but we will never be apart," she reassured to Chikane. Chikane softly laid her head on Himeko's shoulder as tears slowly ran down her face. Himeko put her right hand on Chikane's head and softly caressed it. Himeko had the same fear as Chikane, but she knew it wouldn't do good to let them get to her.
"I hope not, I just want to have some stability in my life. I don't want to live like this forever."
"Neither do I, neither do I," Himeko calmly stated. They didn't say anything for a while, just looked at the colored trees and the pond. Then something came up in Himeko's mind. It was trivial but her curiosity couldn't let her rest on it. "You've only been here for nearly a year, yet you know all these places."
"Well there's a story about that. Just about a week after I got here, I saw an ad in a newspaper for a job to be a so-called 'tourist guide', only that the guides are not for Tokyo's landmarks, monuments, and popular places; but for strip bars, girls services, and massage parlors. All I had to do was to take foreign tourists to those areas and to act as a translator and liaison for them, since most foreigners couldn't go to those places by themselves," she said uneasily.

"Since I knew a good amount of English, and also knew how to fight, they hired me, even though I wasn't familiar with the area. Luckily enough, I was able to get familiar with Tokyo quick enough to show them around. Also perhaps because I'm a woman myself, the workers trusted me more than my male counterparts, and thus I was able to get them to even those high-society massage parlors, brothels, and girls services that usually rejected foreigners. With that, I ended up servicing very rich men, some of them were CEOs of well known companies and nonprofit organizations," Chikane finished.
Himeko was amazed at what Chikane said so far and she can tell that she wasn't lying. "Wow, they must be some very rich people."
"They sure were," Chikane agreed. "If fact let me tell you one of my clients. I don't want anybody else to hear it so come close so I can whisper it to you ear."
Himeko obliged and tilted her head towards Chikane. Being a little bit paranoid, she looked all around to see if anyone was nearby, and then she whispered his name to Himeko. When she heard the name, her eyes widen in total shock.
"Are you serious? I can't believe he would do something like that! He's-"
"Shhh, shh! Lower your voice, I don't want anybody to hear us!" Chikane cautioned.
"Ano, sorry. What I was going to say is that he's the leader of a well-known church."
"Yep, he sure is, and that's only half of the interested part."
"What's the other half?" she asked reluctantly, knowing it wasn't going to sound good.
"He was seeking for young boy services."
Himeko was in total shock. All she could say is, "Oh my."
But Chikane continued, "Eventually I got clients who wanted men instead of women, some of them were openly gay, some of them were closeted, some of them were leaders of a religious organization like that guy I told you, and some of them were high-level executives who were married but were closeted bisexuals. Both conservatives and liberals came to me for men's services."
"But what happened? It sounded like you made a lot of money, but now you're living on the streets?" Himeko asked.
"It lasted for three months. It was during that time that I met Corona. She was working under a madam who promised to help her get into the music business if she worked for her. It was nothing but a total lie, she was going to pimp her for all she barely worth and then throw her away like the garbage she is. Anyways, I took one of my clients to her brothel and he picked her out. He arranged with the madam to have her go to his hotel room, so she came along with us to the hotel and they went up to his room and they did you know what. I was just standing outside, waiting for it to end. He wanted me to join them and Corona had no problem with it but I declined. I've had many offers from clients to have sex with them, but I turned them all down, for obvious reasons..." she said with a small grin. Himeko just giggled.
"However, things didn't go as usually planned. About twelve minutes later, I heard some screaming coming from the room. I had the card key to the room, so I quickly opened it and I saw him on top of her, punching her face. He was screaming to her in English, 'You gonna take it up in your ass whether you like it or not!' So I came from behind and punched him right in his face, he fell off her and the bed, hitting the floor hard. While he was lying on the floor, I stomped on him until Corona pulled me off. Other than a black eye and a busted lip, she was all right. He was more hurt than she was, since I gave him a few cracked ribs."
"You would think that the madam would be happy that I saved one of her workers, but she wasn't. Instead she got angry with the both of us and then she told my boss. He fired me instantly after he got word of what happen."
Himeko was a bit puzzled, so she asked, "But that makes no sense, you saved somebody from getting beaten up by a bad man, why would they fire you?"
"Because, as I found out later, that man was a CEO of a huge multinational corporation who was one of her loyal customers. The madam was having issues with Corona, not surprisingly, and that bastard wanted to do some sick things, so she thought that he could teach her a lesson."
"But what about your boss?"

"He was in it too, so I kind of hurt things for him as well."
"Oh my, but you must have saved a lot of money from it, what happened to it?
"It all went into needles and powders."
Himeko didn't understand what Chikane meant, "Huh?"
"Drugs! That skank blew our money on drugs! After we both got fired, Corona stayed in my apartment so that she could get back on her feet again. I had a nice apartment but within a month, it was gone because she spent all of my money on drugs. Very often she would come home in the middle of the nigh high and/or stoned. I hid my money a few times but somehow she found it and used it to feed into her drug habits. After losing the apartment, I moved to the station."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Himeko said with a great deal of concern.
"It's not a big deal Himeko. I'm still living, that's what really matters. Anyways, let's enjoy the of the day, we might not get this chance very often."
"Okay!" Himeko simply replied and they went back to focus on their quality time together.
Kuu Shiratori was on her laptop, looking up information of missing and runaway children. She found the Children's Rights Network website. She got the phone number off there and called them.
"Children's Rights Network, how may I help you?"
"Ano, I would like to report a missing teenager."
"Okay, can you tell us the teen's name?"
"Yes, her name is Kurusugawa, Himeko."
"Are you her mother?"
"No, I'm her school teacher."
"Oh, okay ma'am, I'll check our database to see if we have any information on her already."
While the operator was looking her up, Kuu was thinking, "I hope that she's not already in their database." She figured if she was already in the database, then her guardians have already reported her disappearance and that if they find her, they would send her straight to her relatives. That was the last thing she wanted to happen, knowing how much pain Himeko went through.
"We found her. She was already reported. Do you have any new information on her?" She became worried. By then she had to think of a way not to have Himeko sent to her parents while continuing her conversation.
"Actually I do. She sent me an email a few days ago. I just took a look at it a few minutes ago."
"Did she say where she was in the email?"
"Nope, not at all. In fact, it seemed that she used an anonymous email program or website since the email address was"
"Oh, I see. Ma'am, can you forward us the email you got from her?"
"I sure can. But how are you going to find her with it since it seems that she made it anonymous."
"Nothing is 100% anonymous on the web. We'll send it to our tech crew to track it down."
"Oh, okay, thanks."
So the operator gave her the email address and then Kuu sent the email message to her. When she got the email, the operators asked with a very serious tone in her voice, "I just read part of the email you sent me and it seems that she ran away from her relatives because they physically abused her. This happens to be the number one cause of children running away. Do you know anything about it? Did you see any signs of physical abuse on her? This is very serious."
"Yes I have. I have seen her in my class a few times wearing heavy makeup, guessing that she was covering up her scars."
"Have you ever reported this?"
"Yes, I have, quite a few times to the headmaster. All he kept on saying was that he'll take care of it. He never did anything about it. Now I wish I had done more about it," she sniffled, as she was about to cry, feeling that she let Himeko down.
"Ma'am, don't let that get to you. We're glad that you reported this to us and if we find her, we will have her examined for any signs of abuse before her guardians find out. And we will inform you as well."
Kuu was relieved at what she heard, "Oh, thank you very much miss. I'm really concerned for her."
"I understand your concern, we will put our best efforts to locate her. When we do get something, we will contact you immediately."
"Thank you very much," she said and then she hung up the phone. She took a slow and deep breath and said to herself, "I hope nothing happened to Himeko-san."
Later on during the day, Himeko and Chikane left the park and went back to the station. When they got there, they were surprise to see Kazuki near Chikane's 'spot.'
"What are you doing here?"
"I came here to say thank you for your participation at the exhibition. Both of your music and artwork really impressed the people."
"Why thank you, we really appreciate the opportunity it provided from us and we would like to help you guys out anyway we can in the future," Chikane assured.
"Really, that's good to hear because I really need your help."
"Why? What's the problem," Himeko said.
"The bill for cleaning up and repairing the temple is much more than I thought, so I'm here to ask if you two could donate some money."
One again, Chikane was hesitant but Himeko was sure about giving him some money.
"I don't know if we got enough to spare," Chikane uneasily replied.
"Sure we do!" Himeko noted. Chikane gave her a look that was a wild mixture of surprise and anger. Himeko went into her pocket and pulled out her personal money of 8,000 yen, which was almost all the money she had. That put Chikane on a tight spot. She didn't want to give him any of their hard-earned money but she also didn't want to look bad either, so she gave him 5,120 yen from her pocket.
"Thank you very much for your kind contributions. I assure you that it will not be forgotten," he said as he heads back to the temple. When he finally left, Chikane immediately had a word with Himeko.
"Why did you give him most of your money?"
"Because he needs it more then we do, the damages done to the temple were quiet bad. Also, we can make some more."
"But don't you see how much money we gave him?" she noted with a calm yet a tense and cold tone.
"Its just money. It's the least we can do for him since he made it possible to showcase our talents to others."
"Yeah, and he should have been paying us for that. How are we ever going to leave the streets if you hand out our money to other people?" Himeko couldn't come up with an answer. "Now thanks to you, we are going to have to work again to get back that money. Do you realize how long it took for us to make that money?"
Himeko barely eeked out 'yes' since she was about to cry, but then she added, "Maybe you're just better off without me, since it seems that I can't do anything good enough for you." After that she quickly ran away from Chikane, disappearing within the huge crowd in the station.
Chikane couldn't believe that Himeko would run away like that. She didn't think that she was being that harsh to her, but according to Himeko, she was. So she chased after her through the crowds, shouting her name.
"Himeko, I'm sorry! Please come back! Himeko!"
Unfortunately, a moment later she lost her. She hung her head low in disappointment and took a long walk throughout the station, thinking of what she should do next to repair the situation.
Back at Hana's place in the alley, Hana was doing his usual dressing up, seeing what piece of clothing looked best on him. He was checking out his makeup when Himeko came to his place with tears on her cheeks.
"Hello there darling, it's nice to see you as always." Then he noticed the flushed eyes and tears on her cheeks. "Huh? What's wrong Hime-chan? Why are you crying?"
"Chikane-chan hates me," she mustered.
"Well what makes you say that?"
"Because she's upset that I gave some of our money to Oogami-sensei so that he can repair his temple."
Hana simply stated, "I see."
"Now she doesn't want to have anything to do with me," Himeko sobbed.
Hana expected it all along, but what she said confirmed his hunch, "Are you two in a relationship?"
"Yes, but it's probably over now."
Hana had to hold his chuckle, thinking that it was a bit trivial but apparently it wasn't to Himeko. "Don't be so melodramatic. I don't think it is, darling. Just because you have one fight doesn't mean it's over. I'm very sure that Chikane-san still loves you. From what I've detect from my gaydar in the past month, I think Chikane really loves you."
"She love's me now, but what if I screw up again? Will she keep on loving me?"
Hana just looked at her gently and said, "Of course she will. She might be upset with you right now, but eventually she will calm down. From the way she defended you against Nekoko the other day, it seems that she's more patient with you than with other people. Besides, did you talk about it with Chikane before handing the money over?"
"No," she muttered while hanging her head down.
"That's probably why she's so mad with you, you made a decision without having her involved in it. Well, now you're in a relationship, you got to work things out together. You can't do anything you please without her knowing about it. A relationship is all about trust. It is also about maturity, thus you can't run away from every problem you cause or have to face. Only kids do that."
Himeko kept her head down and responded, "Yes, you're right. How could I be so stupid?"
Hana lightly chuckled and then he told her, "Don't worry about it, I did that a few stupid things myself with my late husband, Mike. As Chikane-chan, Nekoko-chan, and my girls can attest, I can be rather impulsive myself. But if things go wrong, you got to work it out together, no matter what it takes. Because you never know when your partner will no longer be with you," he said with a sad voice.
Himeko knew about Hana's one-time "husband," Mike and she knew how much he loved him. Though they were not legally married, Hana felt such a strong bond with him, that he considered him to be his husband. They were together for almost five years when he started having pain in his stomach. The doctors diagnosed it as cancer. It had progressed too far to be treated. It left Hana devastated, knowing that his lover wouldn't be around for very long. Six months later, he left the earth, leaving Hana feeling, in his own words, "eternally empty." Hana hasn't been with anyone else since, even though he got a few offers.
As Himeko saw the sadness on his face and tears welling up in his eyes, she realized how much Hana deeply missed him, but she also knew that she still has a chance to make it up with Chikane and that she better do so, or else. Knowing how much Hana was hurting, Himeko came up to him and comfort him, but it was a bit impossible since he was much taller than her, so he got on his knees and put his head on her shoulders. Then Himeko gave him the same advice she gave to Chikane about Otoha.
"I know that he's long gone, but always remember the wonderful times you two had together."
"I know that, but sometimes it's so..." he couldn't complete the sentence and instead he broke down and cry.
"Don't worry, you probably get to see him again in heaven."
Hana smiled at what he perceived to be Himeko's naivety, "Well at least you think I have a chance to get to heaven."
"Everybody has a chance to go to heaven. Nobody can say who gets to go and who doesn't, because nobody can read God's mind."
Hana chuckled at the fact that he realized that she wasn't so naïve after all, "That's so correct Hime-chan, and I think I need to tell that to some people in my church, especially the priest of my church, who is about to unceremoniously resign."
"Remember the priest that I told you about who didn't want me to be in the church anymore?"
"Yes, I remember very well. I remember you telling me that during one of his sermons, you and a whole bunch of other gay people started singing 'We have a message' on the balcony."
Hana laughed at that one, "Yep, we sure did! Anyways, one of my girls and Sister Miyako found some evidence of him taking some of the money from the church to pay for his cancer treatment. Trust me, I fully understand how much cancer treatment can be, based on what me and Mike went through, but that still doesn't give him the right to take the church's money for his own selfish need."
Himeko shook her head, disapproving the priest's actions, "That's not right."
"No it isn't, and he's going to pay for it. He's set to go to court about a month from now. Now I know that the Lord forgives but he also makes sure that you face the consequences for your sins as well."
"That's very true," she agreed.
"Well you know the old saying, what goes around comes around," he noted. He was about to speak more about the matter but then he noticed something disturbing, "Girl, look at your nails, look how horrible they are! How could you keep them in such a way?" They really weren't horrible, but to him, even a chip on a nail is a sore sight.
Himeko, feeling a bit ashamed, stammered, "Well I-I-I do a lot of drawing and painting. My hands get dirty real quick."
"That's no excuse for a cute princess like you to have dirty nails! Sit down honey and let me paint them for you."
"You're really gonna do that for me?" Himeko said, being thankful at Hana's generosity.
"Of course I will, you little angel. It the least I can do for someone who took some of the most glamorous photos of me and also took some time to comfort me. Besides, I'll make them so pretty, Chikane-chan will lay kisses all over them!" he smiled. That got a chuckle out of Himeko. He was so impressed with her photos that he had her photos all over the place. "Now just take a seat and let me get the stuff and some water to wash your hand."
"Wow, thanks a lot Hana-chan!"
"No problem, Hime-chan," as he pulled out his nail filer and started to work on her nails.
Life seemed to be normal for Souma. His grades were still good, he was winning his tennis matches for his school, and his relationship with Makoto was going well, but instead he was still hurting. Hurting that his brother doesn't know him anymore. Hurting that he would even try to hurt him. But less apparently, yet most importantly, he was hurting that he believed that his brother didn't love him anymore. Though inside of him, there was still a glimmer of hope in him that things could be back to what it was.
While at home, he was staring outside of his window, wondering where his brother was. The outside fit Souma's state of mind perfectly, partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Sister Miyako was visiting the house when she saw him staring outside.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
"Right now, it's not even worth half of that," he despaired.
"You're still thinking about Tsubasa-chan, aren't you?"
"Yes, very much so. I can't believe that my own brother would want to kill me."
"His mind is not in the right place. He probably still thinks of you as a kid, thus when he see that you're an adult, he didn't believe you. A lot of people with schizophrenia are like that."
"I suppose. I would have never thought that his condition was that bad. Does that mean I lost him forever."
"No, no, nothing like that. When I talked to one of the doctors at the institution, they said that he was on a new experimental drug, since all the others fail. It was like a switch, sometimes it work, sometimes it didn't. I guess it wasn't working when he escaped."
Souma didn't say anything immediately, thinking about what she just said. Finally realizing that things won't be the same, he just got off the wall and was about to walk away, but he got stopped by Miyako.
"I'm not trying to rain on your parade, but I want you to realize how serious his condition is. Things won't be the same like it was before his schizophrenia, but that doesn't mean thing won't be for the better. There is still hope for Tsubasa-san."
"I hope so. I hope so," he simply replied. Just as he was about to go back to his room, Kazuki came into the room and got everybody's attention.
"Souma-kun, Sister Miyako, I need you two to come to my office right away."
"Why something is wrong?" she asked?
"Yes, someone sent me an email, and it's not good."
They quickly went to his office and took a look at his email. It was an anonymous email sent to him saying, "So you decided to run a fund-raiser to save your pathetic shrine? How cute. Well it won't be enough. Thrashing your place was just the beginning. Next time we will do worse."
"How did they get your private email?"
"I don't know but somehow they did."
"So should we report this to the police?"
"Absolutely, I'm not going to let them intimidate us one bit," he ended. Kazuki took out his cell phone and started to call the police.
It was around evening when Chikane came by Hana's place. He was trying on his new fur coat that he picked up in a dumpster when she came by.
"Hi, Hana-chan."
When he turned around and look at her, he saw sadness and worry on her face.
"Hey there, Chikane-chan? Why you look so bummed out?" He knew the reason but he didn't want to make it look so obvious.
"Its Himeko-chan. She's not happy with me."
Decided not to keep his act, he followed, "I know, she told me everything." Chikane had a surprised look. "Come on girl, my gaydar was on you two since that day with the Snake Clan. I knew for a while that you two were attracted to each other."
"But I didn't think we were that obvious."
"Hey, I don't think anyone else picked it up, but what I want to tell you is that she told me about how she gave away most of your money."
Chikane tried her best not to get upset about it, but Hana could see the disguised anger on her face, "I can't believe that she would give our money away like that. We only have so much. She can be so careless sometimes. I got angry at her and she ran away," she moped.
"No, Chikane, you have every right to be angry with her and I told her that. Hime-chan got the point and I bet when she sees you again, she'll apologize."
"I hope so," Chikane pessimistically noted. "I just hope our relationship won't be like this all the time."
Hana shrugged his shoulders and said, "I can't answer that one, but I know that no relationship is perfect. My relationship with Mike wasn't perfect. We constantly argued about who turn it was to walk the dog!"
"Well, that's true about relationships, it will never be perfect. But I don't want this to be happening too often."
"I don't think you have to worry too much about that. Compared to when I first met her, she seems to be showing signs of growing up."
"That's true indeed. She doesn't cry as often as she used too, and she's starting to come out of her shell a bit. She could still use a bit more growing up. Anyways, I got something for you."
"Really? What is it?"
"Let me pulled it out of my pocket." She reached into her right pants pocket and pulled out the gold necklace with the scratched ruby. Yes, the necklace she robbed from the pawn shop. Hana's eyes bulged as he looked in amazement at the necklace. He knew very well that Chikane didn't get it legally, but he didn't care one bit.
"Wow, is that really for me?"
"Absolutely, it's the least I can do for a dear friend who stuck by me when no one else would," she said as she handed him the necklace. As soon as he got it, he looked in his mirror in his cardboard-box "home" and put it on. He liked how it shined even thought there's a scratch on it.
"This is beautiful, thanks a lot, girlfriend!"
"You're welcome," she responded with a small smile on her face.
"Now how can I repay you?"
Chikane simply stated, "There really is no need, Hana-chan."
"Don't be so modest Chikane-chan, it's not you. I know what I can do for you; I put on some make up for you. Girl, as pale as you are, you need some makeup so that people won't mistaken you for Casper!"
Chikane was taken a bit by his comment and responded, "I am not that pale!"
"Trust me honey, you are. Now come here and let me make you look fabulous."
Chikane knew that he was as bullheaded as she was and that protesting would only make things worse, so she surrendered and let him put on the make up on her face.
Chikane got to Himeko's tent. She was nervous as hell, thinking things won't go right, but she knew that she couldn't let it get to her, so she had to have a talk with her. She made her presence known to Himeko and then she came out.
"Hey Himeko," she said with a bit of trepidation in her voice. "I need to talk to you. Look Himeko, I'm really-"
"No, Chikane-chan, let me say it first. I really want to apologize for giving our money away without asking you. I thought I was doing the right thing but I never took into account how you would feel. I know that you felt mad, angry, and left out, thus you had every right to be angry. Because of that, I felt guilty and hurt. I want to move on and make things better between us. Next time, we will talk it over and do it together, like a couple should."
Chikane just smiled, and simply responded, "Thanks, I didn't expect something like that from you."
Himeko chucked, "Hehe, I guess its part of me growing up, being accountable of my actions and taking responsibility. Now how can I make it up to you?"

Chikane just smiled and said, "Just don't do things so impulsively next time. When it comes to very important situations like that, we need to talk it over before making a decision."

"I very much understand, Chikane-chan?" Chikane smiled to show her approval, but Himeko had something else to say, "Speaking of important decisions and working together, which one of these paintings should I have framed? The one with Nekoko and her cats, or the one I did on this park?" Chikane shook her head and chuckled, "The one on the park. At least when I look at it I don't have to worry about tearing it up."

Himeko just laughed at her comment, then Chikane joined it. While they were laughing, Himkeo noticed something on Chikane, "Chikane-chan, you look... Different!"
Chikane looked at Himeko and smiled, "Hana-chan put some make-up on me, saying that I need it because I looked like Casper the ghost."
Himeko chucked some more, "Hehehehe, it looks nice but it also looks like he put on a bit too much."
"Well you know Hana-chan, he likes to overdo things."
Himeko smiled, "That's true, but he's still a sweet person." It was starting to appear that the extra make-up was getting on Chikane, so she offered, " How would you like me to put on some make up for you? I won't use as much."
Chikane laughed a bit and said, "I would love it if you do, as long as I don't look like something from the circus!"
Himeko chuckled again, "I won't do that, trust me."
"I do. I don't think you're capable of doing any worse."
So Himeko handed a bowl of water and a washcloth to Chikane to clean her face. Then when she dried her face, Himeko applied the make up to Chikane. While she was putting on the make-up, Chikane noticed her nails.
"You finger nails look pretty, who did them for you?"
"Hana-chan did, do you really like them?"
"Very much. The next time I meet him, I have him do my nails instead of my face."
She didn't kiss them as Hana proclaimed she would, but she noticed how beautiful they were and that was good enough for Himeko.
After she got done, Himeko handed the mirror to Chikane to look her face now. She liked it and it wasn't even half as much as Hana's.
"This is much better! Thanks a lot," she complemented and then gave her partner a soft loving hug. It made Himeko feeling better inside, even though that voice inside told her that it was just a fleeting moment, but she ignored it. After she finished hugging her, Chikane had something in mind. "Hey, right now it's night time, why don't we go and walk around the city. You can take your camera with you and take some pictures. I know you love doing that."
Himeko just happily nodded and grabbed her camera. Then she asked, "Where are we going anyways?" Chikane paused for a minute, thinking of a good place to go but they haven't been yet. That's not hard since Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. Nevertheless, she had to think it over, figuring what place would be good taking pictures at night, and also what would be best for Himeko's safety. Finally something came in her mind.
"Ah, I know a good place. How about Shiba Park?"
"You mean where Tokyo Tower is at?"
"Yes, exactly."
Himeko loved the idea, "Absolutely! I would love to go there! Can we visit the tower, huh?" she pleaded like a young girl.
Chikane didn't want to burst her bubble, but knowing their financial situation she had no choice but to, "I wish. It cost about 850 yen ($8.70 USD) per person, and that's just for the first deck. To go to the top, it would cost an additional 600 yen ($6.10 USD). That's how they charge things over there." Himeko had a sad look on her face. Chikane reassured her that it wasn't worth it, "Trust me, it's not worth it. Besides, the line for the place is very long, even at night. Also, the Observatory at the Municipal Government building here has just as great of a view and it's much cheaper, as in free!"
Himeko put aside her disappointment and responded, "I understand. But I still want to go and takes some pictures."
"Well then let's get going!" Chikane commanded. So Himeko grabbed her camera and typical of her clumsy self, she tripped over herself on her way out. Luckily enough, the camera didn't break. Chikane just shook head but she had a smile on her face. "Girl... We need to work on your feet coordination. That's the first thing we are going to do tomorrow!" she kidded.
"Sorry," she simply replied.

Chapter 12

Title: Chapter 11, Part 2 of Now That We Found Love

[Author's notes:

Hi everybody! Sorry it took long to follow up the chapter, but my hard drive crashed just a few days after posting up Part 1 and I thought I lost the second part. Fortunately, I had it in a thumb drive, thank God! So I send it to my beta reader and after she sent me back her corrections, I edited it one more time and here it is! Enjoy!


Himeko and Chikane: Their Story – Chapter 11, Part 2

Author: mandygirl78

Beta Reader: Rubi Malone

Last time, the girls had a fight, but thanks to Hana, they were able to patch it up. Now they were doing their usual ritual of taking pictures during the night.



It was a usual walk to the park during the night time. Nothing really eventful happened, just the usual activity with Himeko taking pictures of anything interesting to her along the way. Of course Chikane was in a few of them, being Himeko's "designated model." Himeko always felt that having her lover in some of the picture made them stand out more. While walking their way to Shiba Park, they had some chit-chat with each other.

"So do you think Neko-san knows about us?" Chikane asked.

"I don't think so. She seems to be as normal as usual. She does have a interesting look on her face whenever I talk about you."

Chikane laughed, finding it humorous, "Well that's Nekoko for you. As long as she's not being mean or nasty to you, that's fine with me. But if she does anything to you, I'll..."

"Chikane-chan," Himeko playfully noted. "She would never hurt me, she's my friend."

At first Chikane thought how naïve Himeko could be, but she realized that maybe she's right. After all she thought, Nekoko did go out of her way to protect her quite a few times and to help her out.

"Well that's true, but I don't know how she will act when she finds out about us. She was getting nasty to you when I stuck up for you at Hana-chan's. I could only think it would only get worse."

Himeko saw a great deal of concern and worry on Chikane's face, even though Chikane does worry a lot, so she gave her a soft squeeze.

"Don't worry about it, Neko-chan would never hurt me. She's not that type of person… Or cat."

"Sorry about that. You're right, maybe it's my instinctual nature of not trusting anyone."

Himeko looked at her and said, "I understand your concern, but I'll be fine." As she was about to explain more, she spotted the tower, "Hey look, it's the Tokyo Tower!" They were a mile away from it but the Tokyo Tower still dominate the night skyline with its luminescence. Chikane turned her head and looked. It was nothing special to her, she have seen it a million times, but to watch Himeko's face light up like a little kid brought a smile on her face. Himeko was already taking pictures of the tower and its surrounding areas, including Chikane. As Himeko was taking the pictures, they got closer to the tower. At around 200 feet from the Tower, Chikane noticed someone familiar. Chikane took a break from her "model shoot" and walked up closer to examine the person in more detail since the night lights weren't strong enough. At first Himeko wondered what Chikane was doing, so she followed her and then she recognized the person herself.

"Hey isn't it that Ed Hagglin, President of the World Organization of Evangelicals?"

"It sure is," Chikane noted.

Ed was visiting the country, trying to convert a few Japanese to Evangelical Christians. He was with a group of Japanese Evangelicals, ranging from a few young preteens to a 70-year-old elderly woman. They were all wearing a "Jesus Saves" long-sleeve shirt. Even though he's the President of an organization, he is also the pastor the Rock of Life Church in Colorado, USA, so they refer to him as 'Pastor Ed'. He was just talking to the group, telling them how excited he was about visiting Tokyo Tower.

Chikane said to Himeko in her usual cold and expressionless tone, "Maybe we should pay him a visit," and she slowly walked up to him.

Himeko looked at her and wondered, "But why? I mean he's busy talking to the people. I mean it's not like he knows you or anything, but... Oh my! Chikane-chan! Chikane-chan!" She hurried towards her, but Chikane was already about 10 feet behind the man before she stopped. She was just standing there, wondering if he would finally realized her presence. It wasn't until he heard Himeko's pleadings that he realized Chikane was over there. As soon as he laid his eyes on her, he took a quick jump in fright. He was indeed the guy Chikane whispered in Himeko's ear.

After that he started to act nervous. While trying to regain his composure, he looked at Chikane and said to her in English, "Hey, it's my old friend from my last visit here. What brings you here, and may I ask you who that little girl with you is?"

Chikane, knowing it was an act, went up to him and gave him the typical American greeting, a firm handshake, "Hi there! My friend and I were just hanging around the area. That's all. This is Kurusugawa Himeko, and she's not a little girl, she's my age," she said with a matter-of-fact tone in very passable English.

"Oh I'm so sorry, I didn't know that. Anyways, it is nice to me you ma'am," then he offered her a handshake.

"It nice to greet you too," she said in her flawed English, a total contrast to Chikane's flawless English, as she bowed. Then she realized her mistake and shook his hand feverishly while apologizing. "So sorry, so sorry!" she apologized, like a stereotypical Japanese. Chikane closed her eyes and shook her head in embarrassment. Ed just laughed it off.

"Heh heh, no problem. I understand what you mean. So how long have you known each other?"

"Known each other?" she questioned, not fully understanding that part of English. Chikane noticed it and she translated it her in Japanese. "Oh, hee hee! Four month." Again, not using proper English since Japanese don't distinguish singulars and plurals. It wasn't a problem because Ed understood.

"That's good to know, and where are you from?" He asked. This time it was the translator who translated to her but she understood what he said.

"I am from Mahoroba."

"Oh, just like Chikane. I've been to Mahoroba before; it was almost 10 years ago. I knew a few people there, very beautiful city."

She only understood bits and pieces of his sentence, so she gave him a puzzled look. It wasn't until the translator repeated back that she understood and replied back in her imperfect English, "Yes, Mahoroba very beautiful."

"It sure is. Anyways, let me introduce both of you to the group." As he introduced the group, he called them by their first name, not familiar with the Japanese honorific customs. "This is my translator and pastor of the Eiji Evangelical Church, Jiro, and this is his wife Madoka and his fine and handsome son Masahiro. Then there's Deacon Nobuyuki, his wife Hisoka, and their two daughters Harumi and Hideko. And finally, two very faithful members of the church, my good and intelligent friend Fumio, and the woman who is always young in heart, Megumi." Yes, Megumi was the 70-year old woman.

"Nice to meet you all," Himeko spoke in Japanese.

"Nice to meet you too," Madoka responded. "Tell me, are you two Christians?"

Chikane, being on the spot, lied through her teeth, "Yes I am."

"I am!" Himeko said proudly.

"What denomination are you two? Are you an Evangelical?"

"I'm a Pentecostal," Himeko proudly noted.

"Ano, I am too," Chikane said, beginning to sweat, even though it was November. Himeko was surprise but she tried not to show it. There were some strange looks from some of the members when they heard Himeko's denomination. Chikane couldn't understand why but Himeko did and it made her feel more tense. She knew that Evangelicals and Pentecostals don't think highly of each other's denomination, contrary to popular belief. Fortunately for her, one of the members did.

"Really? I know a few Pentecostals. They're good people, and they really love the Lord."

"Yes, we really love the Lord," Himeko assured the lady, as she started to relax.

"That's good to hear. What school do you two go to?"

Her tensions went right back up as she was speechless, she didn't know any of the schools around Tokyo. The pastor translated what she said to Ed. Ed then got nervous, figuring that she, just like Chikane, was homeless and didn't go to school.

"Ano..." Was all that she could say as she was drawing blanks in her head as the situation clouded her thoughts. Chikane intervened once again saving her.

"We go to Yuushuu Public High School in Minato." The reason Chikane picked that school because she knew that there was a highly unlikely chance that anybody in that group attended that school. The school was known to be very secular and very liberal.

When they heard that, some of the members had pity looks on their faces, feeling sorry for the girls. One of them, Harumi, sympathized, "Oh I feel sorry for you. I heard they banned any type of religious activities there. We were planning to protest there since we got some friends who go there. They can't be allowed to stop us from proclaiming that Jesus is King!"

"Amen!" Chikane exclaimed, acting like she had the Holy Spirit jumped into her, while continuing on with her shenanigan. "We should have school prayers three times a day, right Hime-chan?"

Himeko was now in a tight spot. She didn't want to lie, but she didn't want to be caught either, so she simply responded, "Whatever you say, Chikane-chan."

Ed saw this and got upset about it, so he went up to Chikane, "Can I see you for a moment?"

"Sure, no problem," Chikane replied. She followed him and when they were a few feet away from the group, he scolded her.

"What are you doing? It's bad enough that you are here."

"I'm not doing anything bad. I was just trying to protect me and Himeko's butt. So I made up that story."

"Did you come here and try to blackmail me since you knew I was here?"

"NO! Not at all! I didn't even know you were visiting this country. It was mere coincidence that we met. My girl and I have what you would call in English, a 'ritual', when we go each night and she takes pictures. We just happen to choose this destination."

"Your girl? I knew you were 'different'," he said with a sly grin. Chikane on the other hand, wasn't so flattered.

"Oh shut up, me and you are in the same boat. It was me who introduce you to that hunky Filipino male stripper, right? He doesn't go around telling everybody that he's bisexual."

"True, but that doesn't mean you can just walk by and approach me. You know I have a respectful reputation to keep, a very respectable image in my church and in my community."

"That depends on who you ask…" Chikane sarcastically noted, knowing full well that his religious views are not very well liked to many people. He responded by giving her an angry look, but she continued, "Which is why I need you to do me a favor."

Ed looked at her hard and said, "What is it?" Although he had an idea of what it was.

"I need for you to take us with you to the Tokyo Tower. Himeko really wants to go to the top level."

"What! Are you kidding? How would the group feel that we are taking total strangers to the top?"

"Well from the looks of it right now, they sure wouldn't mind having us joining them. Well at least they don't mind Himeko," she stated as she turned around and looked at Himeko and the group. It seemed they were enjoying Himeko displaying her photo shoots on her camera. Then Chikane added, "Plus, you owe me one. Remember the one guy who recognized you when you were walking out the building? I had to lie for you, telling him it was one of your missions to introduce Jesus to the male strippers! Don't you remember that?"

Ed reluctantly relented to Chikane's demand, "Okay, okay. I'll let you two join us, but I don't want you to do too much interaction with the group."

Chikane agreed, "Fair enough, but what about Himeko? It seems that she doing quite fine with the group."

Ed looked over and saw the group surrounding Himeko, listening to what she had to say. Back at the group, Himeko was responding to the school's ban of prayer.

"I believe that Jesus is king, but not everybody does, and we got to respect that. It's a public school and it was made for everybody, so we got to respect everybody's views. The best way to show that Jesus is king is to be like Jesus, that means helping others out, participating in community events that benefits everyone, provide goodwill to others, standing up for what's right for everybody, and maintaining our integrity. If we do these things and live by his teachings, then others would want to be like us. That's how we proclaim him to being king, by being like him!"

There was a bit of eerie silence from the group, realizing the she was right. It also probably made them take a deeper look at their actions. Himeko noticed it and tried to break the tension, "There's no need to feel ashamed. Just because you guys started protesting doesn't make you bad people. We all make mistakes, it's how you handle them that really matters. You can still make it up," she said, learning for her experience with Chikane. When Chikane heard that, she had a huge smile on her face. Then the members in the group smiled and then they started bowing to her, thanking her.

Ed saw the entire thing and knew it would be detrimental for him to restrict her like he did to Chikane, so he reluctantly relented once again, "Okay, she can mingle with the group."

Chikane simply said, "Good," without breaking her smile.

After their private conversation end, they headed to the group. While they were walking over there, Himeko was now showing small portraits of her drawings and paintings she keeps in her pockets.

"... This is another portrait of my drawing of Jonah and the Whale."

The group was amazed at the quality. "Wow, it's so amazing how you drew the whale," said Hisoka.

Himeko smiled, "Thanks. It's one of my favorites. And this is a drawing of my neighbor's cat. His name is Yoshi."

A few squeals came from the young girls when she showed the drawing.

"Ahhh! He's so adorable! Wow, you're a really good artist!" said one of the girls.

Himeko smiled again and lightly blushed, thanking her, "Why thank you!"

While standing a few feet away, Chikane called her, "Hey Hime-chan, Pastor Ed is letting us come with him to the Tokyo Tower."

A gleaming smile showed on her face that was very present even in the night lights.

"Really? Wow! Thank you," she elated as she ran to Chikane and hugged her. While hugging her, she was thinking that Chikane did another one of her schemes, so she whispered to her, "I hope you didn't do something bad?"

Chikane whispered back to Himeko's ear, "No, Himeko, I didn't do anything bad. I'm honest. He owed me for a favor I did for him a long time ago." Himeko stopped hugging her, stepped back, and then looked at her straight at her eyes. Chikane knew what she was doing, but she had nothing to hide, so she simply told her, "It really was a favor. He was coming out of a male strip club when someone recognized him. So I lied for him, telling that guy that he was there doing the Lord's job. Please Himeko, you got to believe me."

Himeko saw the honesty in her face and in her eyes. She smiled back and said, "I believe you."

"Thanks," she simply replied, but Himeko wasn't so patient.

"Well what are we waiting for? Let's go!"

"But, wai-," She didn't have the time to utter her words and she was quickly grabbed Chikane's hands and pulled her to the group. Ed couldn't help but laugh. He walked up to the group and addressed them, "Well it looks like everybody's ready, so let's go!" And so they headed to the lines. Even during night time the line could be long and it's wasn't until forty minutes later that they were finally able to get inside Foot Town, a building directly underneath the tower. It's where they have to use the elevator to go to the top. As promised, Pastor Ed paid for everybody and then they got on the elevator. The tower has two observations: the Main Observatory and the Special Observatory. The Main Observatory is located around the middle of the tower and the Special Observatory is near the top of the building. In order to get to the Special Observatory, one must go to the Main Observatory, purchase another ticket there, and then take another set of elevators to get to the Special Observatory.

While they were going up to the Main Observatory, Himeko was looking through the "look down windows" on the bottom of the elevator, amazed at how far up they were going.

"Wow, it's so amazing looking down from up here," she said to Chikane.

Chikane looked down as well, "It was the first few times I've rode it, but then I got used to it."

"I've haven't been this far up since that skiing trip to Mt. Okisawa."

"You've been there too?" she replied, remembering when that rich girl in the club brought that up.

"What do you mean 'I've been there too'?"

"I knew a few of my high-level executive clients who went there."


Chikane was thinking in her mind, Whew! That was a fast one!

When they got to the Main Observatory, they looked outside through the big windows. It displayed the surrounding area of Minato. Himeko was in awe of how the city's lights lit up the Tokyo skyline.

"Wow, this is beautiful. I need to take a few pictures of this!" she said as she grabbed her camera.

"I prefer this view over the Special's view. I think we get to see more of the city that way."


Ed was enjoying the view; it was all new to him seeing Tokyo this way. As for the rest of the group, some have already seen it, so it was nothing new to them. However as for the two young girls, Harumi and Hideko, it was their first time so they were amazed as well.

Chikane wanted to use this time to get closer to Himeko, but she couldn't as Pastor Ed wanted another private discussion with her.

"Look, sorry to interrupt you but I'm only going to be here for at least a week. Do you know any 'hotspots'?"

"I no longer work for Fujihito, however I'm now an independent consultant," she lied, knowing very well that if she let Ed know that she's homeless, he would lowball the payment. As mentioned earlier, Ed knew that she was already homeless from an undisclosed source and knew that she was just making sure he wouldn't screw her over.

"Look Chikane, you're not fooling me one bit. I know that you don't have a place, but don't worry about me taking advantage of you. I will pay you the usual charge, if not more, but I assume you still have some connections?"

"Of course. In fact, I have more connections than before," yet another lie. "I'll get you something in about three days."

"Make it four, I got a conference in three days. After which, I am free until my flight back to the States."

"Fine, just give me your pre-paid cell number and I will contact you."

"Okay. How much would be for your end of the service?"

"The same, about 20,000 yen (around $245 USD)."

"Okay, it's good to see that prices haven't changed much since eight months ago."


"Okay, well it's a deal, and you better let no one else know about this," he stressed. Chikane had a small gulp when he said that, since she suspected that Himeko already suspected. Ed saw the concern on her face and replied, "Don't tell me that girl knows!"

"She's very perceptive and observant. It's one of her traits of being an artist."

"Shit! I swear to God you better have her not tell anyone else," he panicked. So much for being a man of the Lord…

"She won't, I promise," Chikane confidentially assured him, but he wasn't sure himself.

"You better make sure she doesn't tell anyone. Because if I go down, you're coming with me," he threatened.

Chikane just gave him a cold stare and said "That's what you think, sir. You don't know me very well."

"And you don't know me very well either, miss. But I'm not here to make threats; I'm here to enjoy myself, so I think it's time for me to get the group ready for the next trip." However, the conversation didn't end there, "But Chikane, really? A Pentecostal?"

Chikane rolled her eyes in total disbelief and sighed, "Pastor Ed, please. Like I'm going to find some openly gay Evangelical girl to date. Can we just go now?"

With that being said, he rounded up the troop, paid for their tickets to go to the Special Observatory and got on the elevator. While they were on the elevator, Himeko once again looked through the glass at the bottom of the elevator, amazed at how far up they were going.

"I can't wait to see the Observatory, it will be great."

Chikane calmly noted, "Yeah but it won't be as great as the main one. What you mostly see will be the skyscrapers. If this was daytime and the sky was clear, you would see Mt. Fuji."

"I would love to see that!"

"You're better off going to the Shinjuku building during the daytime. It's a much better view."

"Oh ok. Anyways, Chikane-chan, I was wondering, how do you know English so well."

"Well one of the nuns back at the orphanage was from New Zealand. She taught us how to speak English. I knew that learning English was vital in me making money, since English is the main language people use to conduct business. Plus me and Otoha made a vow that if we ever leave the orphanage, we will move to San Francisco or London, so me and Otoha made sure we got our English down correctly. Otoha and me developed a friendship with the nun; she was very helpful in correcting our English. I also learned some Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and a little bit of German during my time here."

"Wow, that's amazing."

"So how do you know some English yourself? I know it wasn't from those crappy classrooms," Chikane curiously asked.

"Well my relatives had a lot of guests from America coming to our place, so I had to know some English to communicate with them. They're really good with English, since they've gone there and England so many times."

"I see."

Then they finally got to the top. When they got there, they were able to see more of the Tokyo skyline.

"You are right Chikane-chan. The other one is better, but I still like it!" she said to her in English since Ed was nearby.

"It still looks beautiful to me," Ed inserted. "It's amazing to see all these wonderful skyscrapers. It wasn't long ago that Tokyo was a small town, now it has all these skyscrapers."

"Ano... I understood the first part, but what did he say in the second part?"

Chikane translated the second sentence to Himeko and the she replied back to Ed, "Yes, it is amazing! Tokyo small long time ago."

After that, Himeko whipped out her camera and start taking photos. Chikane decided to leave her to her own device and went to the other side of the observatory where the group was looking. Pastor Jiro came up to Chikane, "So where do you attend church at?"

Chikane nearly broke into a sweat, she had no idea of any Pentecostal churches in Tokyo, but she did know a few in Mahoroba.

"Ano, Spirits of the Lord at Mahoroba."

"Oh I've heard of that one. That's where they do those so-called 'faith healing'?"

Chikane, who just like Jiro, thought it was all BS, but had to respond back in a way to support it.

"Well if you got the Holy Spirit in you, anything can happen, hallelujah!" she exclaimed with quite a bit of phony joyfulness. Amazingly enough he didn't pick it up, but nevertheless, he was skeptical.

"Sure... Anyways, how did you learn English?"

"I had a nanny from New Zealand who taught me. She was an Au Pair."

"Really? You had a Western nanny? Wow, you must be rich!"

Chikane was about to break into a sweat when she heard that, "Ano, yeah! My father works as a television producer at NHK TV."

"Really? Well here's my business card, please hand it to him. I am trying to have my church service broadcast on TV so that people in Japan knows about our church and about God. Our church service may not be 'exciting' as yours, but it's very informative and it's by no means boring," he added, clearly putting down the Pentecostal service.

"I sure will give it to him when I see him," she replied with a bit of nervousness.

"Thank you very much. I would greatly appreciate it."

Chikane then had a question for him, "Now how do you know English so well?"

"Well, me and my family used to live in Colorado for six years, where Pastor Ed's church was located. We just move backed here two years ago, and my son still has that nasty habit of saying things in English. I hope that-" he was about to continue but his wife unexpectedly interrupted him.

"Honey check this out, the Toyota blimp is outside!"

"Anyways, we'll talk later. I got to attend to my wife. Thanks for the offer."

"You're welcome," she sighed in relief. Then she said to herself, "Thanks goodness he's gone, I don't know how much I can put up with that act."

With him out of her hair, she went to where Ed and Himeko were at. It seemed that they were having a conversation, even with Himeko's limited English. Much to Chikane's surprise, he was able to put up with her 'Engrish.' She was describing an event that occurred in her church, with Pastor Ed trying his best to be polite and not to criticize it.

"... Then man started to speak in tongue when Holy Spirit went in him. He then sing and dance up and down aisle."

" I think you mean the aisle," he corrected.

"Yes, the aisle, thank you. Anyway, after that, he become joifuru-"

"That's joyful, Hime-chan," Chikane intervened

" Ah yes, thank you! He have much joy in him, he fell on ground and have... How do you say 'konvorixyu-shon'?"

"You mean 'convulsion'? Are you sure that's the word you want to use?"

"Yes, that what he have, a convulsion. You never see people have Holy Spirit in them to have convulsion?"

" Ano.. No?" she questioned. In the back of her mind, she was thinking, "And I thought that the Catholics were nutty, they really take the cake here! And I thought that all that stuff they do on TV was just made up for it. They actually believe in that!"

Before she responded, Ed interrupted, "A convulsion?"

"Yes, a convulsion."

Ed tried not to roll his eyes, trying to hide his disdain for some of the Pentecostals practices that include speaking in tongues, faith healings, and personal revelations. Nevertheless, Himeko noticed it.

"So I see... Well I got to check up on the others. I'll be right back."

As soon as he was far enough, Himeko pouted, "He thinks we're a bunch of weirdoes. All Evangelicals do. They say we are nutty."

Chikane put Himeko's head on her shoulder and comforted her. "Don't pay him any mind. His religion is not that much better from what I heard."

"I know, but he still doesn't have to be mean to us."

"Like I said, don't pay him any mind. At least you don't have to hide who you are and you are no big hypocrite."

Himeko smiled, "That's true."

With her right arm around Chikane's back, she turned around looked at the sky. She was in wonder of how the lights from the skyscrapers made the atmosphere look surreal.

"It looks so pretty, but it's not like how it is in Mahoroba," She said, smiling softly at the thought.

"What do you mean? It's nearly dark during this time at Mahoroba?" Chikane said, looking at Himeko.

"Yeah, but sometimes I miss the mountains and trees, and all those beautiful flowers that comes up in spring. Sometimes I miss the quietness and the natural beauty of Mahoroba. I especially miss going to the beach during the summer, that's whenever I can," She said, playing with the fabric of Chikane's shirt. She smiled, looking down at Himeko as the girl continued.

"Mahoroba is unique that it's not far away from the mountains yet it's also not far away from the beaches," She spoke, closing her eyes as she snuggled closer to Chikane.

"I know what you mean, Himeko. But Mahoroba also reminds me of all the bad times in my life. The orphanage, the people who ran it, the beatings, the abuse, the…" Chikane spoke out of spite, narrowing her eyes at the memories. She bit her lip as she couldn't continue, starting to feel the tears from ghosts past breach the corner of her eyes. Himeko gently lowered Chikane's head to her shoulder as she cried, running her fingers through the girls hair, hushing her quietly.

"I know the feeling. Sometimes it also reminds me of all the cruelty, and the humiliation I suffered when I was there. Maybe we are better off staying here in Tokyo," She whispered softly, holding her lover close. Chikane responded by nodding her head in Himeko's shoulder, tears slowing to a halt as she sniffled lightly.

"Chikane-chan?" she asked softly while stroking her hair.

"Yes," she responded softly with her face still flushed.

"Will you always be there for me? Will you stand up for me no matter how much I may fail? Be the one who supports me when others left me cold. You mean everything to me and I will do my best to prove that to you," Himeko spoke barely above a whisper, tears of her own gathering at the thought of a negative answer.

"Of course, as long as you do the same for me. You mean the world to me as well, Himeko. And I thought I was the one with trust issues," she replied then put her head back on Himeko's shoulder, closing her eyes and sighing softly.

There was something that Himeko really wanted to say, but she was afraid of how much damage it could bring. While she thought there were some things better left unsaid, she felt that if she didn't bring this to light, she would never know where she stood. The thought alone made her heart race as beads of sweat trailed along her brow, biting her lower lip.

"Well it's just that… Sometimes I think you still love Otoha-san and you haven't really gotten over her," Himeko said, closing her eyes tight as if expecting something bad to happen.

Chikane immediately sprang her head from her shoulder, "Himeko, I'm done with Otoha. It's you that I love, no one else. I do miss her but I'm no longer attached to her," she protested lightly, touching Himeko's chin so as to make the girl open her eyes and look at her.

"But why do you tend to bring her up so often?" Himeko stared to shed tears at the feeling of guilt that stabbed her in the gut for having asked.

"Because she was the only person besides you that I've ever been close to. She's the only other person who I've ever trusted with my heart. But that doesn't mean that I don't love you any less. Please believe me Himeko, I really mean it," She said, smiling softly as she brushed the tears that stained her lovers' cheeks.

The look on her face showed her true feelings for her. Himeko saw it and just smiled. Chikane smiled back in return and then Himeko laid her head back on her shoulders. They finally had their moment together, as they look silently outside, embracing each other. They were able to forget their surrounding for a moment and instead enjoying the picturesque view outside and their short time together.

About five minutes later, without warning, Ed interrupted them.

"Ahem, the group is coming this way. So if I were you two, I would stop the lovey dovey stuff.

Chikane quickly let go of Himeko. Himeko did the same as well. Then she asked, "Lovey Dovey? What's that?" Chikane explained to her and then she blushed. "Oh that, sorry!"

"No problem, just act normal." The group came just as soon as he finished his sentence. The two lovers pretended that everything was normal, thus there was no suspicion from any of them. Nothing eventful happened for the rest of the time they were up there. Chikane and mostly Himeko were just mingling with the rest of the group.

They finally got back down to the ground. It was fun experience for everybody. As soon as they were back in Foot Town, Himeko and Chikane thanked Ed and his group and then went their separate way, heading back to their home.

On their way back home, they were walking together, holding each other hands and talking about the trip.

"That was really great! I got some wonderful pictures."

"Yeah, you should have some, you took quite a lot."

"Yeah, I think I nearly filled up my SD card."

She didn't respond back, instead Chikane was in her own thoughts. Himeko noticed and asked her, "Hey, what are you thinking."

"Pastor Ed asked me to take him to another place where he can pick up some men. He is willing to pay me some good cash. I know that you take your beliefs seriously and that you might not approve it, so I want to check it with you first before I go ahead on it."

Himeko stopped and paused for a moment, then she told her, "I don't see any problems with him seeing other man, but it is against the rules of his religion and his organization. Plus churches like his don't take adultery kindly, thus they will see him as lying to the church."

"But don't Christians forgive?"

"Yes, we do, but we also know that we must pay for the consequences for our action. So I don't think you should be helping him go behind his church's back. Instead you should help him out dealing with his issues. I bet he's torn inside."

Chikane thought about it for a while, she sees Himeko's point. His escapades could be exposed and she could go down with him. Given that thought, she told Himeko, "Okay, I'll call him tomorrow and we'll talk about it. It seems that I'll have to let him go."

Himeko smiled, "Thank you very much."

"You're welcome. You're right. I would just make a bad situation even worse. Anyhow, let's go this way, we will get to your home quicker," she pointed. It was a properly lit back alley.

"Okay," she said, seeing no danger coming from it, but little did they know they were about to regret it.

Five minutes after they decided to go through the back alley, they started hearing some noise.

"What was that?" Himeko asked.

"I don't know, but just be quiet," Chikane whispered. Then they heard some more noise. Himeko was nervously shaking.

"Chikane I don't like this..."

"Don't worry, nothing will happen to you. I'll protect you."

But suddenly, out of nowhere a man jumped out and frightened both of them. Himeko screamed in fear and so did Chikane, but not as loud.

He was very shaggy looking with messed-up, long teal hair; rotten teeth, and long, dirty fingernails. His appearance was frightening to say the least. He was wearing tin foil all over his body, especially on his head, shielding his mind from invaders so to speak. The man's body seemed to be quivering to some extent, as his eyes darted left and then right, as if someone was attempting to steal his brain. Drool seemed to seep from the corners of his mouth as his senseless babble dribble past his lips, fingers drawing imaginary shapes in front of him as his mind processed what little it could comprehend. It was none other than Tsubasa, Souma's brother, and he was on his schizophrenic rage.

"Who you are? You come kill baby brother? You come from Jupiter?" The man spoke quickly, tilting his head to the side as a sneer graced his lips.

Himeko and Chikane were perplexed. Chikane said, "Who are you? What the hell are you talking about?" During that time, she tried to pull her tanto out nonchalantly and was gripping it intensely with her hand.

The "voices" in his head were saying, "It's the blue demon. You must kill it, kill it!" Referring to Chikane as the "blue demon." He nodded, holding his head as if believing that the "voices' rang true and he must yield to his inner demons.

Then he screamed, "I know you, you blue demon. You must die!" Pulling something out as the glimmer of silver flashed, Chikane knew exactly what it was. With a wicked grin and a maniacal laugh, Tsubasa gripped the blade he withdrew, throwing it violently toward her. She tried to dodge it but the blade hit her right shoulder.

Chikane yelped in sudden pain as she gripped the wound, blood staining her fingertips as it seeped between her knuckles. Himeko let out a loud piercing scream that managed to make some of the dogs in the alley start to bark in rage.

The dogs sparked his attention as he held his head suddenly, shaking from side to side in panic.

"Must be KGB! Must be KGB!" Running away, he fled the scene.

Chikane was on her knees, started to pull the knife out of her shoulder.

Himeko started to cry, "Chikane-chan, Chikane-chan, is you okay?"

"Yeah I'm fine. It's nothing life threatening. Just give me your shirt so I can put some pressure on it to slow the bleeding," she said as she finally pulled the knife out of her shoulder.

Himeko complied and balled up her shirt, then she put it on the wound and Chikane held it there to slow the blood flow.

"Do we need to go to the hospital?"

"Yes, but a police station could do."

They didn't need to do either, as about two blocks later, a policeman who heard the barking, spotted them and drove them to the Shinjuku Police Department.

While they were there they were sent to a room. Chikane was being treated for her wound, while Himeko was being questioned by the investigators.

"Can you tell us what the man looked like?"

"Ano, he was skinny and he had a Teal-colored hair. It was very long. He also had long nails and he looked kind of like a girl. He looked very dirty, like he didn't bathe for over two weeks."

So the police officer went to his computer and showed a listing of all the green haired, skinny fugitives based on what she described. They went through at least sixty different pictures before she found Tsubasa's photo.

"That's it! That's him!"

"This guy?"

"Yes, that's him! He was it!"

"Oh yeah, you two were lucky. He's a paranoid schizophrenic."

Himeko gulped when she heard that, "Really?"

"Yes. He escaped from a mental institution a while back."

"Oh my," she said.

"Those are they crazy types that even scare me. I remember running into one who was just like him the other day at the station. He said that I was the Angel of Death and that he must kill me before I can kill anyone else. Luckily he tripped over the steps while he was chasing me and I was able to get away," Chikane shared.

When Girochi walked into the room, he immediately recognized the two girls.

"Hey there Himeko-san, what happened to you two?" He knew Himeko's name, but not Chikane's. He was familiar with her, since almost all the other policemen who worked at the station have dealt with her one time or another.

"Some weird guy who spoke a lot of gibberish threw a knife at Chikane-chan."

"Really? Who was he?"

The police officer pointed to Tsubasa's mug photo on the screen, "That guy."

When he saw the picture, he was in shock.


"What wrong?"

"Uh, nothing!" He didn't want to reveal that it was his sister's ex-boyfriend. "Is it possible for me to speak to those two privately?"

"Of course."

"Just when he was about to speak to them, his captain called him."

"Martinez-san, we need you immediately."

"But Captain, I need to talk to these two girls."

"That can wait. There's a guy we brought from a bar who was once a former mixed-martial arts fighter and now he is beating everybody up. Plus he's under the influence of PCP, so we need all the manpower we can get!"

"Oh shit, I'll be right back. Make sure they don't leave before I talk to them."

"Yes sir," so he asked the girls a few more questions before leaving the room. After he left, Himeko turned her head and talked to Chikane.

"You don't know how scared I was when he threw that knife at you. He could have killed you."

"He could have, but thanks to my quick reaction, he didn't."

With no one in the room or even looking inside, Himeko drew herself close to Chikane and then they started kissing each other.

Later on, when he had a break, he called Miyako, but all he got was her voicemail, so he left her a message.

"Miyako, soy yo, Girochi. Escucha, tengo que decirte algo muy importante. Tsubasa atacado a alguien simplemente hace una hora. Todavía en este ámbito y vamos a buscarlo. Por favor devuelva la llamada cuando recibas esta carta, adiós." ("Hey Miyako, it's me, Girochi. Listen, I need to tell you something very important. Tsubasa attacked someone just about an hour ago. He's still in this area and we are going to look for him. Please call back when you get this, bye.")

After that he went back to the room. But when he opened the door, he unintentionally caught them kissing each other. Immediately, they pulled away from each other. Feeling a bit embarrassed, he said, "Ahem, sorry I mean to disturb you two. I just want to ask a few more questions."

Chikane didn't like it and she made it clear, "We already told you guys everything. We were just walking through the alley when he came out of nowhere, saying some nonsense, then he threw a knife at me."

"But where was that at?"

"Like I said earlier, it was near the Municipal building area. Not too far from a Pizza-la shop."

Before Chikane could speak any further, Himeko asked Girochi.

"I guess you know that guy, since you're so interested in asking all these questions."

Girochi stopped looking at them and just pulled his head down. He let out a rather loud sigh and then he looked back at them. Then he finally answered Himeko's question.

"Yes I do. He was a good friend to my sister at one time. He was like a big brother to me. He really is sick and he needs to be sent back to the institution."

"I see," Himeko sympathized.

"Well don't worry. When we find him we will contact you two. Did you give your cell-phone number already to Officer Pango? Well that's if you two have a cell phone, since you girls are homeless."

They didn't say anything but just nodded their heads in agreement.

"We did. We got a pre-paid one," Chikane added.

"Ok, at least that's cleared up with. Well since the report is already done, you two can leave now."

"Thank you officer," they said in unison.

"No problem. Just be careful out there."

"We will," Chikane ended and they left the room and the building, now heading straight to Himeko's place.

When they left, Girochi's cell rang.


"Soy yo, Miyako, ¿qué pasa?" ("Hey it's Miyako, what's up?")

"Tsubasa todavía está en el suelto. Se acaban de atacar a dos niñas no hace mucho tiempo, afectando a uno de ellos. Caminaban en el callejón no lejos de aquí cuando lanzó un cuchillo a uno de ellos. " ("Tsubasa is still on the loose. He just attacked two girls not too long ago, hurting one of them. They were walking in the alley not far from here when he threw a knife at one of them.")

Miyako was shocked to hear that, even though she knew he was capable of doing such a thing.

"Oh, Dios mío! ¿Está bien? ¿Él la mató? ("Oh my God! Is she okay? Did he kill her?")

"No, él no la mató, pero estuvo cerca. Se le pegó en el hombro. " ("No he didn't kill her, but he came close. It hit her in the shoulder.")

Miyako sighed in relief, "Bueno, al menos no hubo muertos." ("Well, at least there were no dead bodies.")

"Sí, gracias a Dios por eso. Otra cosa interesante es que una de las chicas es alguien que conocemos." ("Yeah, thank God for that. Another interesting thing was that one of the girls is someone we know.")

"¿En serio? ¿Quién fue? " ("Really? Who was it?")

"Fue Himeko, el que nos dijo sobre el Clan Serpiente, el otro día." ("It was Himeko, the one who told us about the Snake Clan the other day.")

"¿Quieres decir que Himeko? El rubio de pelo, ojos de color púrpura-chica que vive en el parque? " ("You mean that Himeko? The blond-hair, purple-eyes girl who lives in the park?")

"Sí, ella. Pero no fue el que resultó herido, era esa chica de pelo azul que vive en la estación que siempre causando algunos problemas. Lo gracioso fue que nunca supe cómo se llamaba hasta hoy. " ("Yep, her. But she wasn't the one that got hurt, it was that blue-hair girl who lives in the station that's always causing some trouble. Funny thing was I never knew what her name was until today.")

"¿Cuál es su nombre?" ("What is her name?")

"Himemiya Chikane."

Sister Miyako nearly dropped her phone when she heard that name. She was in total shock and didn't say anything for a while until Girochi called out her name.

"Miyako? Miyako? ¿Sigues ahí? " ("Miyako? Miyako? Are you still there?")

"Oh, sí, todavía estoy aquí. ¿Siguen ahí? " ("Oh yes, I'm still here. Are they still there?")

"No, ellos ya se fueron." ("No, they already left.")

Miyako said, "¡Dispara!" (Shoot!) That was probably the closest she would come to cursing.

"¿Por qué? ¿Qué sucede? " ("Why? What's up?")

"Hay algo que usted debe saber acerca de Chikane..." ("There's something you should know about Chikane...")

Chapter 13

Title: A Himeko and Chikane Christmas

[Author's notes: Hi everyone, it’s me, Mandygirl78. I am posting a revised version of this Christmas chapter I did over two years ago. This is a much needed improvement over the first version. My beta-reader ryoshu did an excellent job in the revision. This chapter is personally important to me because I wrote it at a time that I thought I was going to quit writing the story and quit writing all together. I was so frustrated and angry at how the story wasn’t up to my standards and how it wasn’t going according to my version. Somehow, when I did this chapter, things were starting to fall into place. After writing the chapter, I felt that the story had gotten back on track again. Now when I read this chapter again, I smile because it made me wonder what would happen had I not wrote this chapter.

There’s one thing I would like to bring up, I wanted to add a part where Souma remembers his last Christmas with his brother. Unfortunately, the chapter became so long that I decided to drop it entirely.

I would like to think everyone who read it a big ‘thank you’ and also I would like to say Marry Christmas and Happy Holidays as well. And may you share the act of giving to others, for that’s what really what life is about. Thank you.]

It was early December and Christmas time has begun in Tokyo. Shinjuku was no exception with Christmas lights and decorations filling the urban atmosphere, especially at the Southern Terrace of Shinjuku Station, where beautiful Christmas light decorations dominate the night during the holidays. Even though only 2% of the Japanese population is Christians, shoppers and retail stores were in the yuletide spirit, as the usually fiscally responsible and thrifty-minded Japanese use this opportunity to shop to their careless delight. The retailers were setting up their stores to take advantage of this rare opportunity. The recession was still going on and the retailers were trying anything to entice the customers into buying from their store.

The shopping districts were busy with bustling crowds, and Himeko and Chikane were experiencing the holiday spirit flowing around the area. To Himeko, it was a wonderful time of the year. Like a little kid, she was awed with the wonderful decorations all over the area and amazed by the holiday aesthetic displays in the front window at various stores. As for Chikane, it was just another unnecessary distraction, nothing more than an excuse for people to spend their money. As they were walking down the busy sidewalk, holding each other’s hands, Himeko stopped to look at the Christmas decorations surrounding her.

\"Isn\'t it exciting to be out here during Christmas! With all the pretty decorations and beautiful displays to look at, plus the nice Christmas music filling the air, there\'s no better holiday than Christmas. This is better than what they have in Mahoroba, and even much better than what they had at my relative\'s mansion!\" Himeko elated with glee.

\"I guess so,\" Chikane replied without any care. They were only a few feet away from a 30-foot giant air-filled Hello Kitty dressed in cute holiday clothing.

\"What’s wrong Chikane-chan?\" Himeko asked with sincerity.

\"What\'s wrong? This whole holiday is wrong, that\'s what\'s wrong.\"

Himeko really didn\'t understand what Chikane was getting at, \"What do you mean Chikane-chan?\"

\"I mean this is ridiculous. We are not a Christian country, and yet we\'re celebrating this made-up holiday. It has to be made up because if Jesus Christ even did exist, then he could not have been born on December 25th. It would have been too cold for the animals to be outside during that time in Palestine. And even if his birthday was on the 25th, people aren\'t really celebrating it; they\'re just using it as an excuse to buy useless junk.\"

Himeko saw her point very well, and she also considered it valid, for she had heard that argument before. She remembered a group of atheists brought that up when they were protesting outside her relative\'s church during Christmas time last year. She also remembered how her aunt insisted to one of them that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th. On the other hand, she had a point to share with Chikane.

\"Yes I understand what you saying, and maybe he never existed and maybe it is not his birthday, but what\'s really important is the story of his life. His story of humility, caring, selflessness, and making a positive impact in other people\'s lives. That is what we can learn from it. Those things can apply to anybody. They\'re not reserved for Christians only. That\'s what Christmas is really about.\"

Sometimes Chikane hates it when Himeko was right, and she was on that one.

\"You\'re right, I see your point. But, would Jesus celebrate it by buying material stuff?\"

\"No he wouldn\'t. He would have done something like feed the homeless or find some way to make the day special for the kids.\"

Then Chikane sarcastically noted, \"I wish he was around to make the day special for us when I was living in that orphanage.\"

\"Why do you say that, didn\'t you celebrate Christmas?\"

\"Yeah but it was nothing special. The nuns and priests didn\'t decorate the area for Christmas decorations or get a tree, since my orphanage hardly received any money. They had one of the priests, usually Father Mukoka, since he was old and fat, dress up and become Santa. As for presents, we all got the same gift every year; it was either a small Bible or a cross. Looking back, Christmas at that place was lousy.\"

\"Aww, I feel so bad for you. I wonder if that\'s the case for all orphanages that are also reformatories,\" she said. Afterwards, she had an epiphany, \"Hey, why don\'t we go to an orphanage just like yours and have a wonderful Christmas celebration for them!\"

Chikane looked at her and said, \"Huh?\"

\"I mean we can find a neglected orphanage, and decorate it like the stores here; get a real Christmas tree, have a nice and caring Santa Clause for the little kids, and put on a show for them! You know, give them a Christmas that they will cherish forever!\"

Chikane looked at her wide eyed with amazement and said, \"Wow, that sounds really ambitious, I\'m not sure if it will work.\"

Surprisingly, the roles have changed with Himeko being confident about an idea and Chikane doubting it. But Himeko saw a great opportunity, and she wanted her partner to be a part of it.

\"I know it will work if I can get other people involve It doesn\'t hurt to try. So will you help me make this possible Chikane-chan?\" she said with her eyes gleaming with joy. Chikane didn’t see that very often with her, and Himeko\'s excitement had an effect on her. Somehow she was enticed by it and she wanted to be part of it.

\"I would love to Himeko! I want to give to kids the Christmas I\'ve never had.\"

\"Great!\" Himeko excited, \"I will bring it up to Neko-chan, Hana-chan, and a few others. This could be a wonderful Christmas!\" She gave Chikane a loving embrace.

\"Yes and you will be in charge of it,\" Chikane noted. When she heard that, Himeko immediately broke off the embrace and looked at Chikane with fear. She was frozen in her tracks and terrified from what she told her. \"M-m-me?\" she stuttered nervously.

\"Of course you! I can\'t think of anyone else better for the job. You have a very warm and sweet personality. You\'re very honest, selfless, and very caring.\"

\"But-but I never was a leader in anything, I don\'t know how to be a leader,\" she argued. The idea of being in charge terrified her so much, she had a hard time swallowing the sudden lump in her throat.

\"Well then, this is an opportunity to learn to be one. You can make a greater difference in their lives if you become a leader,\" Chikane pointed out.

\"I know, but what if I fail? What if I disappoint those children?\" Himeko whined as the corner of her eyes started to become wet, as she was running through her head a million ways how she could fail miserably.

Chikane looked at those scared amethyst eyes and did her best to reassure her, \"You just told me that it wouldn\'t hurt if we try. Himeko, basically anything you do for them will be a better improvement in their lives than what they have right now. Listen, you will not disappoint them nor will you fail, and even if you do, it\'s not the end of the world. I will support you 100% on this, no matter what.\"

That brought a smile to Himeko\'s face and then she stated, \"Okay, I\'ll take the lead on this. As leader, the first thing I will do is to find an orphanage that is just like yours. Then I\'ll meet the person in charge, and see how we can help her or him.\"

Chikane smiled and then she encouraged, \"That sounds like a great plan. When are you going to start?\"

\"I will start tomorrow. But for today I just want to take a walk around the area with the girl I adore the most!\" she gushed with her cheeks blushing red. That also made Chikane blush. Then the loving coupled embraced once again, but it wasn’t so easy. Himeko laid her head on Chikane’s wounded arm, inadvertently applying too much pressure. Her arm was still in bandage from the knife incident nearly a month earlier.

“OUCH, you’re putting too much pressure on my arm,” she grimaced.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it. I wish it would heal before Christmas. That’s another reason why I’m grateful for this Christmas, you could have been dead!”

“Yeah, I’m very lucky that crazy man didn’t have great aim, but I really don’t want to talk about it Himeko. I want to get back to our cuddling, just lay your head on the other arm.”

HImeko giggled, \"Okay Chikane-chan,\" and they went back into their hug, oblivious to the outside world.
Her mind was on the plan for the rest of the day. When she got back to her tent, Himeko realized that she would have to make a written plan of it, just to show people that she was really serious about it. So she got out a piece of paper and wrote down some ideas that she had in her head. Then she went through them, and crossed out the stuff that she think didn\'t would fit in her project. This is what she was left with:
• Find an orphanage.
• Help get decorations and people to help put them up in the orphanage.
• Get a Santa Claus.
• Get some gifts.
• Have a show with music and plays that show or tell the true meaning of Christmas.
For the first item on the list; Himeko didn\'t know any neglected orphanages in Tokyo, but she knew someone who probably would. So on the next day she went to visit Sister Miyako and showed her the plan. She was totally enthralled and asked Himeko if she can join in. Himeko happily accepted her offer. Sister Miyako told Himeko about a run-down reformatory/orphanage that her friend runs.

\"It\'s the Ministry of Mercy, located at San\'ya.\"

\"Where is San\'ya?\" she asked.

\"It\'s at the Taito ward. My friend Father Da Costa Tadeu runs the orphanage. He just started working there four months ago. He is willing to try anything that will uplift the orphan\'s spirits over there.\"

\"That\'s great! Thank you very much!\"

\"No problem, please don\'t be afraid to ask if you need more help,\" she advised, knowing very well Himeko\'s timidity.

\"Well since you brought that up, after I have my meeting with the priest, can you arrange a meeting with some of the important people like Hana-chan and Natashi-san?\" Himeko asked.

\"I sure can, just tell me when you are ready.\"

She went back to her place, and shared her plan with Nekoko. Coincidentally, Hana and Natashi were there so they heard it as well. Nekoko was a bit reluctant, but Hana liked the idea since there are going to be plays and music involved, and so did Natashi.

\"I have no problem with it, as long as I get to be in one of your plays and sing a Christmas song solo.\" Hana stated.

\"That\'s not a problem, what songs did you have in mind?\"

\"Well, since it’s about giving and sharing, how about \'Give Love on Christmas Day\'?\" Hana asked, thinking it would be the perfect song for the event.

\"That will work, I like that song!\" Himeko exclaimed. \"As for the plays I haven\'t decided yet what they are going to be, but I will tell you when I do decide.\"

\"That\'s great Himeko-chan! I can\'t wait to see you get this off the ground.\" Hana gushed with excitement.

\"Count me in as well Hime-chan,\" Natashi added. Himeko turned around and looked at Nekoko.

\"How about you Neko-chan?\"

\"Well I don\'t know, but if you pull this off I will assist you in any way possible.\"

\"Could you at least be at the meeting?\" she politely pleaded to her. Nekoko sighed at first, but eventually she gave in.

\"Ok, I\'ll be there.\"

\"Thanks Nekoko,\" Himeko said with her sweet smile.

\"So when are you planning to have the show?\" she asked Himeko.

\"On Christmas Eve, are there any problems with that?\" The three of them shook their heads no, and then Himeko continued, \"After I have the meeting with the priest, then I\'ll have Sister Miyako arrange a meeting with all of us. Is that okay?”

\"I don\'t see any problem with that. Where is it going to be held?\" Natashi asked.

\"At Oogami-sensei\'s temple most likely, knowing her,\" she replied.

\"That sounds good to me. How about the rest of you?\" Natashi questioned.

Hana and Nekoko nodded they have no problem with it and they agree to be at the meeting.

She made arrangements with the orphanage\'s priest later that day. She told him about the project and he agreed to meet her on the next day.

After that she took a look at her list, she saw it was blank for the \'Have a show with music and plays\' section. So she gave some thought into was plays and music she wanted in the show. She wanted something that embroiders the true meaning of Christmas; her discussion with Chikane was still fresh in her mind. She knew that she had to put in Jesus\' birth since it is about his birthday, but what other play can she have? She only wanted two because she thought that two was enough, due to time issues. She then remembered what she told Chikane yesterday about humility, selflessness, and caring. When she thought of those values, the first thing that came up in her mind was \'A Christmas Carol\' by Charles Dickens. It would be a perfect story. So she got her two plays planned for the show. Now it came down to the songs. She was thinking traditional Christmas songs would work, but then she thought it would be best to bring it up in the meeting. So she left it at that.

Meanwhile Sister Miyako told Kazuki, Yukihito, Souma and Makoto about Himeko’s plan, and they agreed to help. After all, Himeko donated most of her money to help repair the temple. Sister Miyako then called Himeko and told her to hold the meeting in two days.
Afterwards Chikane did a checkup with her, \"How are things progressing with the event?\"

\"Well I found an orphanage that wants our help. It\'s the Ministry of Mercy orphanage at San\'ya.\"

Chikane\'s sapphire blue eyes jumped when she heard the location. \"San\'ya? That place!\" she spat.

\"Yes, what\'s wrong with San\'ya?\" Himeko asked innocently.

\"San\'ya is basically the ultimate ghetto of Tokyo. It\'s a dangerous place full of drunks and Yakuzas.\"


\"Yes very much so, but we can\'t let that deter our plans. I have to come with you to the orphanage tomorrow. It\'s too dangerous for you to go alone. You know I don\'t want anything happening to you,\" she said with true sincerity in her heart.

Himeko smiled lightly, knowing that Chikane cares for her deeply, replied, \"I very well know that, so yes, I do want you to come with me.\"

However Chikane brought up something to Himeko, \"I need to tell you that I can\'t come to the meeting. I\'m meeting someone to get some of the decorations for the orphanage.\"

At first Himeko was a bit disappointed, but then she remembered she can relay back the important information to Chikane, so she agreed, \"That\'s not a big problem. I\'ll tell you what happened in the meeting when we I see you later.\"

\"OK, thanks a lot sweetie,\" she said as she kissed her on the forehead. Himeko lightly blushed and gave her a soft embrace her in return.
The next day, they went to San\'ya prefecture and it was worse than what Himeko imagined. It was once an area where the burakamins were forced to live, when Tokyo was called Edo. The place is a gloomy and depressing area filled with vacant buildings and half empty streets. It\'s where people passing out on the streets are so common that there are warning signs about it for motorist. Day laborers, homeless people, foreign students, no-budget travelers, and of course the Yakuza populate the area. The prefecture is so run down, you can\'t find it on any map of Tokyo. Ask for directions and the best you will get is \'north of Asakusa.\' Ask if you are in San\'ya, and all you will get is a \'no\'. Luckily for Himeko, Chikane knew where the prefecture was located. The orphanage was only three blocks away from the edge of the prefecture, but walking through that section was enough to get an eye-sore. The place made Himeko terrified, clutching to Chikane\'s waist with her left arm.

\"This place is very scary,\" she cringed.

\"I know, I know. Don\'t worry, I wont let nothing happen to you,\" she said followed by a soft kiss to her cheek. It helped calm Himeko somewhat but she was still terrified.

When they reached the orphanage, they saw a decaying building with rusty steel gates and a patchy lawn. Several broken or taped windows populated the building. It reminded Chikane very much of the place she grew up in.

\"We\'re going to decorate THAT?\" Chikane cried despairingly. However, it made Himeko more determine to make it happen.

\"Yes, this place is in dire need for some Christmas spirit. Think about it, Chikane-chan? Wouldn\'t it be wonderful if we could make the orphanage beautiful for Christmas? Could you imagine how many spirits could be lifted up in this area, and maybe others around here would do the same. Then this place won\'t be so depressing and bleak for once. Wouldn\'t that be nice?\"

Somehow that left a small smile on Chikane\'s face. She started to see that she how much of a difference it could make.

\"Yes it would be nice.\"

When they got inside, the main lobby looked to be in as bad of shape as the outside. A broken stairwell, paint peeling off the walls, and the floor wood creaked every time someone walks on it. It was not a pretty site. There was a receptionist there, sitting at her wooden antique desk, typing out some proposals on an old and dirty computer. She was so occupied that she didn\'t know the girls were there until Chikane got her attention.

\"Excuse me miss, but do you where Father Tadeu is located?\"

The receptionist finally got her eyes off the screen and looked up at the girls.

\"Oh I\'m so sorry ma\'am, are you Kurusugawa Himeko? The one who is supposed to meet with the Father at 11:00 AM?\"

\"Actually she\'s Kurusugawa-san,\" she said while pointed to her. \"But I\'m Himemiya Chikane, and I\'m with her so I would like to see the Father as well.

\"Okay, that should not be a problem. I\'ll tell him you\'re here.\"

So she used an old-school intercom to inform the Father that the girls are here, and he told her that they could come to his office. The receptionist pointed to where his office is located, and they went straight there.

When they first saw the Father, they were surprised that he wasn\'t a Brazilian Japanese, but pure medium-built, dark-skinned Brazilian. After they gave each other greetings they went right to business.

\"So Sister Miyako told me that you want to have a play for the orphans here? Of course we talked a little bit about it on the phone.\"

\"Yes but it\'s more than that,\" replied Himeko. Chikane knew a Sister Miyako back at her orphanage, but she didn\'t think it was the same one. \"I want to decorate this building with Christmas lights, decorations, figures, etc. And I want to have music to go along with the plays.\"

The priest was surprised at her ambitious plan. He knew she couldn\'t do it alone, so he asked \"Are there any other people helping you out with this?\"

Himeko couldn\'t lie, so she told him, \"Not many right now. I do have a few people who are willing to help me, but right now I am still asking for more people to help out. I am planning to meet some of them tomorrow.\"

\"That\'s good that you\'re on top of it. Anyway, who are these people?\" He asked.

\"They are my friends back at the park. This will give them an opportunity to do something since they don\'t have much to do, especially in winter.\"

The priest smile when he heard that, seeing how serious she was in getting others involved, \"I don\'t see a problem having your homeless friends involved in this, in fact I will support them as much as I can, but maybe you should also get the orphans involved as well. The Sister told me that you\'re an artist and we got some talented artists here, so maybe they can help you with the Christmas decorations. Also we have some orphans that I know would like to participate in the songs and the plays. The more we can get them involved, the more inspired they will become.\"

Himeko looked at him directly with a grin and said, \"I totally agree with you.\"

\"Well I\'m glad that you do. You know I\'m really glad that you are doing this for them. Some of the kids are still traumatized from the last group who ran the orphanage. There was a lot of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse on both boys and girls. The things they did to these poor kids, especially the teens, make me sick to my stomach. I know they’re not the easiest to deal with, but it’s no excuse of the way they took advantage on them!” he growled, clenching his teeth. His ire was very apparent to Himeo and Chikane. Seeing how he let his anger get the best of him, he calmed himself back to normal. “Anyhow, this is a great opportunity to show Tokyo that these orphans are not juvenile delinquents, and for them to do something uplifting and positive. This will also give a bright spot to the San\'ya area. I know what it\'s like to live in a forgotten area, growing up in the favelas of Rio De Janiero.\"

Chikane responded back and told him \"I know very well myself, for I grew up in an orphanage.\"

Father Tadeu look at her and asked \"Oh yeah, what orphanage was that?\"

\"Our Lady of Sorrows in Mahoroba.\"

The Father nearly choked when he heard that. The girls saw the expression on his face, and knew it wasn\'t a good thing.

\"Oh meu Deus! That hellhole!\" he inadvertently exclaimed the first part in Portuguese. He didn\'t mean to say the last part, it was a slip. Chikane felt bad when he said that and he saw the slight sadness on her face, so he immediately apologized. \"Gomen nasai, I really didn\'t mean to say that.\"

\"It\'s okay,\" Chikane assured him. \"It really was a hellhole.\"

\"From what Sister Miyako told me, I could imagine. It made this place look quaint.\"

That statement struck Chikane like lightning. Though he didn\'t say that she was once there, it sounded like she was. The priest didn\'t notice her reaction, but Himeko did.

Then a thought came into Father Tadeu\'s mind, \"How about this, tell me when the next meeting is going to be held, and I\'ll be there.\"

Himeko grinned, knowing that it will help make the event a bigger success.

\"That\'s great, thank you so much!\" Himeko said and she bowed in gratitude.

The priest smiled and he said, \"Anything for these kids to have a wonderful, healthy and normal life.\"

Two hours after the meeting with the priest, Himeko arranged the other meeting with Sister Miyako. They planned for it to occur in two days. This gave them some time to contact as many people as they could for the meeting.

As agreed, the meeting was held in a medium-sized room at the temple. Sister Miyako was there along with Kazuki, Girochi, Souma, Makoto, and Yukihito. Nekoko, Hana, Natashi, and at least ten other interested homeless people from the park were also there. Plus Hana\'s \'girls\' and Natashi\'s men were present. Fater Tadeu got there just when the meeting got started. When Himeko got to the podium, she got very nervous. Hana saw this, went up to her and did his best to comfort her.

\"Don\'t let these people scare you, remember they\'re here to listen to you.\"

\"I know that but I\'m so afraid that I\'ll mess up or they won\'t care,\" she fretted.

Hana comforted her and reminded her \"Does this project excite you?\"

\"Of course, very much!\" she responded without any hesitation.

\"Well if you show that excitement in the meeting, then they will be interested. Trust me, when you get excited about something, you really don’t\' care what others think. That\'s how I feel when I sing in public.\"

That put a smile on Himeko\'s face and she replied, \"Thanks.\"

Before the meeting got started, Nekoko asked Himeko a question. \"Where is Chikane-san?\"

\"She had to meet someone for decorations.\"

\"Actually we got some decorations that you can use. Luckily, the black-masked gang didn\'t touch our holiday stuff.\" Kazuki inserted into the conversation.

Himeko lightly smiled and said, \"Thank you very much sensei. I\'ll tell her that when I see her.\" With that out of the way, the meeting finally began as Himeko cleared her throat. \"Hi everybody, thanks for being here. As some of you know, I\'m trying to help out the Ministry of Mercy\'s orphanage in San\'ya by decorating the place and providing a Christmas-related show. I also plan to have presents for the orphans there, so I\'m going to need some people to help wrap the gifts. Is anybody willing to help?\"

Sister Miyako just walked in, “Sorry for being late, did I miss anything?”

“No, not really. I was just asking for some help in wrapping the gifts.”

There was some murmuring going on within the audience, and then one of the guys in the room spoke up and said, \"I\'m not trying to be the Grinch here, and I have nothing against any work to benefit the orphans, but how can we help them if we can\'t help ourselves? What are we getting out of this? How will this improve our situation?\" There were a few others in the room who agreed. Deep down, Himeko couldn\'t believe the selfishness of some people in the room, but then she understood their situation, and then tried to find a way to make it enticing for them. She didn\'t have to, for Father Tadeu intervened in the argument.

\"Hi, I\'m Father Tadeu, and I run the orphanage. The fact is we have over a thousand orphans in our orphanage and it would take hours, if not days, to wrap all the gifts. I will lend you our basement to do the wrapping. I\'ll make sure to prevent any of the orphans from coming down there. For compensation, me and the staff can provide two meals a day, one for lunch and another for dinner. Is that good enough?\"

Some of the people discussed it amongst themselves. Then one of them came out of the huddle and said, \"It\'s a deal. We figured that the meal couldn\'t be any worse than what they have at the Salvation Army.\"

\"Only prison food is worse than Salvation Army\'s food,\" the priest detested.

Sister Miyako felt a bit insulted and protested, “Hey, I heard that! Those meals are very healthy and nutritional.”

“Yeah, but they could be healthy and nutritional without tasting like cardboard!” Father Tadeu shot back. Everybody in the room laughed. There was one lingering question the pastor had to ask, \"But Hime-san, what about the gifts? Where are we going to get some gifts for the kids?\"

Himeko never thought about it, although she thought that she should have. She was yet again saved by someone else. This time it was Kazuki.

\"I have worked with a few thrift stores in the past, and I bet that they’d be willing to donate some toys. I have also worked with the Art and Crafts store that\'s near the baseball stadium, and they could get us some boxes and gift wrappings for the presents.\"

\"That\'s really super! Thanks a lot! Now we can make the kids very happy!\" Himeko responded delightedly. Then she added, \"We also need someone to be Santa Claus, because kids love Santa Claus. I know when I was young I was happy to see Santa.\"

Then Nekoko shouted out, \"You still get happy when you see Santa Claus, nya!\" That got quite a bit of laughter from the room.

Himeko chuckled, \"Well that\'s true, but seriously, who wants to be Santa?\"

Girochi quickly showed interest, \"I would love to be Santa Claus.\"

\"Really?\" Himeko asked.

\"Sure! Anything to make to kids happy,\" he prattled.

His sister added, \"He doesn\'t want to admit it, but he\'s such a softie when it comes to kids.\" That got some chuckles in the room. Girochi couldn\'t deny it, and his blushing red cheeks wouldn\'t allow it either. Himeko chuckled at his blush, she thought it was really cute.

\"Don\'t be ashamed, I think it\'s great that a big strong guy like you likes kids. I wish many more were like you,\" Himeko said. That got a genuine smile on his face.

The she continued, \"Now that we have taken care of the gifts and Santa Claus, the only thing on the agenda is the show itself. What I had in plan was to have two plays with Christmas songs between them. The first play was going to be Charles Dickens\' classic, A Christmas Carol, then the second was going to be the Birth of Jesus.\"

However Makoto has another idea, \"How about adding another play?\"

Himeko looked at her and said, \"Do you want to add another play?\"

\"Absolutely! Me and Souma-kun would like to do \'The Gift of the Magi\'. It\'s a story written by the American author O. Henry. It\'s our favorite Christmas story.\"

\"I\'ve never heard of it, what is it about?\"

\"In short, it\'s about a poor couple who wanted to buy gift for each other. The husband wanted to buy a beautiful set of combs for his wife to brush her long beautiful hair, while the wife wanted to buy a chain for her husband\'s prize pocket watch. But what happened was that the husband sold his watch to get the money for the combs and the wife cut her hair off so it can become a wig and she can get some money for the chain. When they got their gifts, they were disappointed to find out that they were useless, but they were pleased with the gift they received, because it represents their love for one another. Isn\'t that a sweet story Hime-chan?\"

\"It sure is and it does tell the true meaning of Christmas. I\'ll add that to the show, even though time issue is a concern. In fact, I\'ll make it the first play of the show. Do you two want to play the husband and wife?\"

\"Of course we do!\" they said in unison as they held each other by their sides.

\"Wonderful. Well that takes care of that part. Moving right along, we need to start casting for the other two plays. I would like to begin with \'A Christmas Carol.\' Now who wants to be Scrooge Ebenezer?\" Nobody raised their hand, instead virtually everybody in the room pointed to Kazuki. He was shocked that everybody selected him.

He simply responded with, ‘Me?’

Yukihito couldn\'t help but to comment, basically he was rubbing it in, \"Of course you! You\'re stoic, grumpy, and very thrifty, bordering on cheap. That role is tailor-made for you.\" Everybody in the room nodded in agreement to Yukihito\'s statement.

Himeko then asked, \"So do you want to be Scrooge?\"

Kazuki reluctantly agreed and said, \"I guess so. I\'ll play him.\"

\"Good, now who wants to be his clerk, Cratchit Bob?\"

Yukihito couldn\'t pass the opportunity up and said, \"I don\'t mind being him.\" Kazuki looked at him coldly, knowing fully well why he volunteered. Yukihito smirked back at return.

\"Okay, I got Yukihito-san down as Crachit Bob. Now who wants to be his wife?\"

Sister Miyako raised her hand and said, \"I will. She seems to be an interesting character.\"

\"Okay, then you will be Mrs. Cratchit. As for the children, I assume that the orphans will play their six children.\" The priest nodded his head to affirm Himeko\'s assumption.

The rest of the characters for the play were selected; Hana will be the Ghost of Christmas Past, Girochi-san will be the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Himeko said she would be the Ghost of Uncertain Future, which surprised everyone else. Then came the casting for Jesus\' birth. Three men in the room were selected to be the Wise Men, Hana will play the angel, Natashi was selected to be the husband Joseph, and Himeko selected Chikane to play the virgin Many, which got a lot of snickers from people, but Himeko thought she was perfect since she was young and very familiar with the whole Virgin Mary concept. All of the small and minor roles in all three plays will be played by the orphans.

Then came picking the songs. Everybody agreed on the songs Jingle Bells, Holy Night, Deck the Halls, with the finale being \'We Wish You a Merry Christmas\' and everybody rejected \'12 Days of Christmas.\' Hana-chan will still sing \'Give Love on Christmas Day,\' right after \'The Gift of the Magi,\' since Himeko felt it was a logical follow-up to the story. Just when Himeko was about to wrap up the music part, one big-mouthed woman interrupted.

\"Hey! Don\'t I get to do a song?\"

It was none other than Corona, and Himeko was surprised to see her there and so did everyone else since nobody told her about the meeting. She found out by overhearing Natashi the other day talking about it with her friend. She knew that she couldn\'t deny her since it was meant to be a group activity, so she asked, \"If it\'s related to Christmas, sure. What song will you be singing?\"

\"I will be doing ‘Oh Christmas Tree’.\"

Himeko didn\'t see any problem with it and a told her, \"Sure, you can sing it right after A Christmas Carol.\"

Corona smiled with glee when she got her approval, but everyone else sigh with grief knowing how much of a Prima-donna she was, especially Hana.

Chikane got there just about when the meeting was wrapped up. When she was about to enter the room she got quite a surprise when she saw Sister Miyako there.

\"Oh no, it\'s her!\" And she immediately left. Himeko saw her leaving but she didn\'t do or say anything in fear of interrupting the meeting. When the meeting ended, Sister Miyako came up to her.

“Where’s Miya-san? I know that you do know about her, since my brother told me about the incident.”

Himeko was surprised how she asked about Chikane, like she was hiding from MIyako all along. Calmly she told her, “She went to get some more lights for the orphanage.”

“Oh ok. Well tell me if you see her, I want to talk to her.”

“Okay,” Himeko ended. Now she was quite confused as to what was going on.
After that, she went looking for Chikane. She couldn\'t find her so she went back to the station to see if she was there. She wasn\'t, so she figure she might be there waiting for her at the tent. When she got to her tent, she saw Chikane sitting there with a ball of Christmas lights on her lap.

\"Sorry about that Himeko, but that\'s all I can get from the guy.\"

\"Don\'t worry about that Chikane-chan. Oogami-sensei has quite a few Christmas decorations, and he\'s willing to let us use them for the orphanage, but thanks for the lights anyways.\"

\"No problem, anything for you, my sweetheart,\" Chikane chimed.

Himeko blushed easily. However, there was something important that she wanted to bring up. \"Why did you run away from the meeting? Does it has something to do with Sister Miyako?\"

Chikane was taken a bit at this, “How did Himeko know about this?” she wondered. “Yes, I saw her there, and I had to leave without her noticing me.”

Himeko couldn\'t understand why Sister Miyako made her run like that, \"What did she do to you?\"

Chikane looked back at her with certain amount of sadness in her eyes and said, \"The question you should be asking is what she didn\'t do for me. She was one of the nuns at my orphanage, but she never reported the beatings or the sexual assaults going on over there. She didn\'t stop anything from happening over there. She\'s a part of them,\" she added while tears began to swell up on the corner of her eyes. \"If she sees me, she\'ll report to them that I am here, and then she\'ll have me sent back to Our Lady of Sorrows. You know I don\'t want to go back there Himeko!\" she balled profusely over the fact of having to return to that madhouse, but there was an even greater fear that brought her more into tears. \"And if that happens than I won\'t be with you.\"

Himeko saw that fear in her eyes, and she slowly pulled Chikane to a comforting embrace; reassuring her that nothing will happen to her, and that nothing will change between them.

\"Chikane-chan, you will never go back there, and nothing will tear us apart, so please don\'t let that get to you,\" she pleaded while soothing her with her soft left hand stroking Chikane\'s head. \"I also don\'t think that Sister Miyako will send you back there. She seems to be a nice person who cares about other people.\"

Chikane, who thought that Himeko was being very naïve, responded, \"Himeko, you don\'t know Catholic nuns as well as I do. They can appear to be caring and sweet but they can also have ulterior motives,\" she said based on her own terrifying experience. \"And maybe she won\'t report me, but we can\'t take that chance, you understand.\"

Himeko wished she could talk her out of it but she felt like it would be futile. Plus, she thought that Chikane might be right, so she nodded \"I understand.\" Then something came up in her mind, \"Oh there\'s something important I need to tell you, I made you the Virgin Mary for the play.\"

Chikane was very shocked at this revelation, and she immediately jumped off of Himeko. \"What! Sister Miyako will see me. And even if she doesn\'t report me, other people within the church could spot me.\"

\"I\'m sorry Chikane-chan, I didn\'t know.\"

\"It\'s okay, I know that you didn\'t know. I could play the Ghost of Uncertain Future at the other play.\"

\"But I\'m playing that role,\" she noted.

\"Himeko, we need to switch. It is very imperative that we do.\" That made Himeko feel even more insecure, \"I know you can do it Himeko. If you can believe that you can get the show running then you can play the Virgin Mary. Besides, the role is perfect for you; you\'re sweet and innocent. Whereas the Ghost of Uncertain Future is perfect for me; dark and mysterious.\"

Himeko knew that Chikane had a valid point, but she wasn\'t sure of herself that she can play the Virgin Mary. Chikane saw her nervousness and said, \"Don\'t be afraid of disappointing them. It\'s not the first time you\'ve face a crowd. You did it before at the convention and you just did at the meeting. It\'s not that much different.\"

Himeko didn\'t see that she had much of a choice, so she reluctantly agreed, \"Okay, I\'ll do it,\" but this time she had a small protest about it. \"But why am I forced to be in these situations? Why do I have to do these things that make me feel uncomfortable?\"

Chikane was surprised to see this side of her, but then she remembered what Himeko told her a few weeks ago at that memorial night in the park. \"Because leaving your comfort zone is the only way to grow.\"

Himeko knew she was using her own words, more or less. \"But I was talking about sharing, not leaving your comfort zone.\"

\"In order to share, you have to sometimes leave your comfort zone,\" she said with a sly smile. That made Himeko smiled a bit, knowing that Chikane got her on that one.

\"You\'re right. I\'ll be the Virgin Mary, and I\'ll be the best Virgin Mary there ever was!\" she elated with a new sense of confidence. Chikane grinned and then afterwards she gave Himeko a loving hug.

A week has passed, and the project is going well. The orphans were excited to be a part of it, and they helped with the decorations. Decorating the building was a bigger task than what Himeko expected, for she found out the place needed some renovation. Realizing that, she divided the tasks among other people that included Natashi and his men. Girochi also lent a helping hand, and it was a good thing since he carried the heavy items that no one else could. Some of the orphans were not familiar with some of the Christmas music, so Himeko then assigned the job of training them to Chikane and Hana. Fortunately the priest was able to obtain more money, he didn\'t say how he did. That meant they could do more decorations and renovations for the building. What was also surprising was how well the \'delinquents\' were able to work with the homeless. They were certainly bonding with each other, and that made the priest and Himeko proud.

Then came the gifts. Himeko had Kazuki in charge of the gifts. Souma and Girochi helped him in getting the gifts. Then Kazuki had the other homeless volunteers, including Hana\'s girls wrapping the gifts. During that time Himeko assigned Sister Miyako and Makoto to promote the show. Sist1\\er Miyako told other members of the church about it and some got excited. Makoto shared it with her friends at school and on the social networks. She posted it on her blog and on Craigslist as well.
One thing they didn’t get around to was getting a new tree. That was taken care of during the week when they were decorating the building. Himeko, Chikane, and a few of the orphans were making decorations and ornaments for the Christmas tree. They were all singing Christmas tunes. They even dressed for the part, as they were wearing Santa hats. Yeah… it’s not Chikane’s thing, but somehow, Himeko was able to talk her into wearing it.

One of the young orphans came up to Himeko. “Should I put more sprinkles on the angels?” she asked.

Himeko looked at it a bit carefully, “No, this is good enough.”

“Okay,” she smiled and as she was about to hand it over to Himeko, a loud grumbling noise from outside rattled everything in the room. They ran outside to see what was causing it. As they arrived, they could see a large 16-wheeler not too far away.

The truck honked once again. BEEP, BEEP! – “MAKE WAY!” Nekoko shouted from the passenger’s window, as she was trying to clear the path. Most got up and moved, but there were still a few drunk lying on the street. Nekoko got out of the truck and dragged them out of the way.

After Nekoko tediously cleared the path, the truck finally reached the orphanage; everybody saw a huge pine tree on the truck bed. It was around 12 feet tall and the leaves were still very green. She got a new tree for the orphanage! As soon as the truck stopped, Nekoko got out and met an excited Himeko.

“Hey there Hime-chan, I hope you didn’t put all the decorations and ornaments on that old bush already.”

“Well we did, but not a lot, so we can move them. Wow! Where did you get that tree?”

“I got this one direct from Siberia, nya! I met a guy who sells Christmas trees from one of my shows. I told him about your project and he actually had a few overstocked. As you can see, the tree still has its roots, so after Christmas time, we can have it planted in the back.”

“This is great! Thank you very much Neko-chan!” Himeko hugged Nekoko.

“No problem. Anything for a good friend.”

Himeko suggested, “Hey, let’s get it inside and start decorating it!\" The orphans cheered and the driver with a few of his co-workers put the tree inside the building. Then everybody started adding the decorations and ornaments to the new tree while moving the remaining ones from the old tree, all of this while singing classic Christmas carols to fill the jovial mood.

As they were adding decorations and singing music, Chikane observed how Himeko interacted with the children. She saw how joyful Himeko was when she was with the kids, and the kids really enjoyed Himeko’s presence. In fact, it seemed that the kids saw her as one of them. All that made Chikane realized how truly wonderful she was, ‘She would make a great wife. There’s no doubt that she’s great with kids,’ she thought.
The project stretched Himeko in many ways. She had to learn time management and multitasking. She also had to learn how to manage a team. And most of all, she had to learn how to be punctual, something that she was never really good at. All of this was very demanding and tiring for her, and she had to continuously pray to God for strength. However, she was still able to make a little time to spend with Chikane, who was also quite busy herself with the music and any various errands that Himeko couldn’t attend to. While they were in the basement’s hallway entrance, they had a bit of time together.

\"So how is the music going?\" Himeko asked.

\"Fine. Hana is working them out there, but they don\'t seem to mind. I\'m amazed.\"

Himeko chuckled, \"Well that\'s good to hear.\"

\"How about you?\"

Himeko tried to hide how tired and worn she was, \"I\'m fine.\"

But Chikane could see how much it was wearing her out, so she comforted her and offered her some words of encouragement, \"Hang in there darling, it will be all over before you know it.\"

\"This is more than I thought it would be.\"

\"You\'ll survive, trust me.\"

“I hope so.” Chikane held her in her arms and started to comfort her by rubbing her back. While she was comforting her, Chikane looked up and saw a mistletoe.

\"Look up Himeko.\"

She looked up and saw the mistletoe. She then blushed and giggled, \"You know what that means, right?\"

Chikane blushed back in return, \"I sure do.\" She then gently lifted Himeko\'s chin up and looked deeply into her soul through her amethyst eyes. Himeko looked back into Chikane\'s sapphire blue eyes, seeing the yearning in her. They slowly drew closer to each other, until their lips connected. Then they slowly touched each other tongues. It started out as a soft smooch, with each other slowly sensing one another. Then a few more kisses to strengthen the connection. Gradually, it turned into full make-out session. Their tongues danced wildly as the passionate kisses grew more and more, neither wanted to stop the flame that burning within them. Their burning desire for each other was so intense that they could have kept their passion going forever, had air not become a necessity.

When they finally got some needed breath, they were surprised that they were not alone. Hana was there all that time watching them with a sly smile.

\"Al-ri-ight!\" he said excitingly.

\"Hana-chan!\" Himeko yelped.

\"Don\'t mind me girls. Pretend that I\'m not here,\" he slyly grinned.

\"So you\'re the one who put up the mistletoe?\" Himeko asked. Hana continued his Cheshire cat grin. \"You sly devil!\"

\"Hey, it\'s part of Christmas tradition, isn\'t it?\" He said mischievously.

Chikane shook her head, “Well, we needed the interruption; we have to get back upstairs.”

And they headed back upstairs. Unbeknownst to them was that Nekoko was also watching as well, and she wasn’t please one bit…
Due to the time spent on the building and on the gifts, they only had a week to rehearse the plays. The priest was able to pay for copyrighted use of the scripts. Again nobody knew, or questioned where he got the money from. The first play, The Gift of the Magi, seemed to go well without a problem.

Everybody thought the second play, A Christmas Carol, was going to be a difficult one, much to everybody\'s surprise, it went easily. Himeko told them beforehand that she was not going to play the ghost, instead someone else would. For the whole time Chikane refused to take off the costume, stating that she needs to be \'deep in her role\', much to everybody\'s chagrin. Sister Miyako was there, and she was beginning to get suspicious that it was Chikane from the orphanage where she used to work. She wasn’t sure until during the rehearsal scene when the ghost pointed to Scrooge\'s grave. The cuts on her wrist from her suicide attempt were showing. With the slit wrist, pale skin, tall height, and a small strand of blue hair sticking out of the hood, it all added up. Sister Miyako knew it had to be her. She could confront Chikane at that moment, but she figured it would be wise until after the play, to avoid potential interruptions.

Finally the third play, the Birth of Jesus Christ, was rehearsed. It went very well, even though Himeko tripped over herself a few times. Nevertheless, it was very clear to everyone that Himeko was perfect for the role of the Virgin Mary.

Now everything was set for the Christmas show.
It was Christmas day and everybody was there at 10:00 am. What amazed everyone was how clean the area of San\'ya looked. It still looked run down, but at least there was no trash lying around, nor were there any sleeping drunks on the streets. The play didn\'t start until 7pm but they were there to help give out the gifts to the orphans after they ate lunch. First they gave out the gifts. They made sure the gift was appropriate for that particular orphan; whether it was a girl or boy, young or old, etc. Then it was Santa Clause time as Girochi donned a Santa Suit and a fake beard, pretended to be Santa while Himeko and Makoto were his \'elves.\' Some of the kids knew who he was and they clearly knew who the ‘elves’ were, but they didn\'t care, they were just glad to see Santa and to sit on his lap. Everyone else was getting the place ready for the show, except for Chikane as she was not there for obvious reasons...

The show was held at the assembly hall and it was big enough to seat 2,000. Two hours before the show, they did a quick rehearsal, even though Chikane was not there. Everybody was concerned about Chikane not being there, but Himeko quickly reassured them that she will be on time for the show. In fact, she was already there, hiding in one of the rooms. Himeko had to tell Father Tadeu about the situation and he gave his oath that he won\'t let Sister Miyako know, not knowing that Sister Miyako already knew. Chikane wouldn\'t show up until 15 minutes before the show began, and only with her costume covering up her face.

It wasn\'t until 45 minutes before the show that a crowd started to gather. First it was other orphans who were not part of the play, then came what it looked to be other priests and nuns. Eventually the other crowds came, some of them were day laborer, others were other homeless people from the area, but there were those who were wearing either expensive bespoken Italian suits or expensive street clothes. When Himeko and Chikane were checking the crowd out on the stage, she didn\'t know who they were, but Chikane sure did.

\"Wow, look at some of people in the crowd. They must have lots of money to wear those types of suits. The only other people I\'ve seen wearing those types of suits were my oji-san and his friends who were also pastors.\"

\"Well I can tell you that they\'re definitely not from the church,\" Chikane said with her face hidden.

\"Really? Then where are they from?\"

\"They\'re the Yakuza,\" she said in a matter-of-fact tone. When Himeko heard that, her eyes immediately jumped as Chikane continued. \"They pretty much run this area. Now I know where Father Tadeu got the extra money. They probably donated it to him.\"

Himeko got really scared from Chikane\'s revelation. In her head she thought that the show better be entertaining and perfect, or else…

\"Oh my, we better not screw up or else...\" she said follow by a loud gulp.

Himeko couldn\'t see it but Chikane was chuckling, \"Himeko, don\'t be silly! The Yakuza are not going to hurt you or kill you. Killing you would actually make them look bad.\"


“Yes. There’s an unwritten code of honor they follow. They don’t go killing people who aren’t part of the ‘business’ so to speak. They especially won’t kill you, since you’re doing something positive. So you can relax, nothing will happen to you.” Himeko then smiled and relaxed.

By then the place was nearly full and Himeko looked at the clock on her cell phone. She saw it was five minutes before show time so she brought it to Chikane\'s attention.

\"Let\'s get ready! The show is about to start in five minutes!\"

\"Okay!\" she said and she went to the backstage area with Himeko.

The show finally began with Makoto being the host. First, some of the orphans and some of the members in the group, including Hana, sang some Christmas songs followed by Souma and Makoto\'s play, \'The Gift of the Magi.\' Their performance was so moving and endearing that it brought tears to some of the audience, even to some of the Yakuza, thought they wouldn’t admit it. Then Hana came on the stage with his girls as the backup singers, and performed \'Give Love on Christmas Day.\' They all sang it in falsetto much to everyone’s amusement. Nevertheless, the crowd was impressed and gave them a wonderful applause in return.

The next play was the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. It wasn\'t as emotionally moving as the first play but it wasn\'t any less entertaining. The audience applauded for the performance. After that was a solo performance of Oh Christmas Tree by Corona. Always the show off, she even sang a verse of it in German! Still in her costume, Chikane shook her head in disbelief. Himeko saw her expression and couldn\'t help but to quietly chuckle.

The third and final play was the Birth of Jesus Christ. The play didn\'t go out as planned at first, when Himeko nervously stuttered and stumbled on some of the lines. The audience saw how nervous she was. But eventually she got comfortable and her nervousness went away. It seemed that everything was going fine until the birth scene when she dropped the baby. Luckily it was a plastic fake baby. She was expecting some boos and jeers from the audience, in particular from the priests and nuns, but instead she got some laughs from it. Even thought the performance wasn\'t perfect, people still applauded at the performance, and at Himeko in particular. Finally the performances came to a close with a few more songs, capping it off with everybody involved in the show singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

But before they did the final song, Makoto had a final conclusion, \"We’d like to thank all you for coming out to watch us when you could have been doing something else this Christmas day,\" The audience applauded then she continued. \"However I would like to say that this show, along with the gifts and the decorations were made possible because of one girl’s amazing vision and tireless determination. That girl is none other than the Virgin Mary herself, Kurusugawa Himeko, giver her big round applause everybody!\" Himeko was stunned a bit at first but she didn\'t get much time to recover from her state, because Chikane pushed her to the front of the stage, and then Makoto grabbed her.

When she finally got to the center of the stage, the audience gave her an even louder praise in the form of cheers, whistles, and a standing ovation. She bowed in appreciation of their support. This was just amazing to Himeko. To her it just seemed to be just too good to be true. She couldn\'t believe the amount of praise she was getting. Himeko appreciated this much more than at the convention, because she felt this accolade had been earned. The happy feeling made her choke up in tears.

The show was a success and although it didn\'t bring any money in, since it was free, it got quite a bit of publicity. After the show was done and most of the audiences were gone, the priest wanted to thank Himeko for the show.

\"Thank you so much Kurusugawa-san, you don\'t realize the full spectrum of how much of a difference this show, and the improvements have made!\"

\"What do you mean?\" she questioned unknowingly.

\"Not only did it had an effect on the orphans but it also had an effect on the Yakuza as well. It was them who had this area cleaned and made safe because they were inspired by what you were doing. This is also the only time that day laborers volunteered to help.\"

Himeko was in total amazement now, \"Really?\"

\"Yes! And I just got word that the Japanese Catholic Review is planning to publish an article on this for next month\'s newsletter! We\'ve never been mentioned in that newsletter before. This is simply marvelous, all thanks to you! I can\'t ever recall a moment of my life something like this ever happening, not even the day I finally left the favelas!\"

Himeko was excited at first, then she remembered what the publicity could do to Chikane. “Please Father Tadeu, don’t let them print our names or show images of us, please!” He understood their situation, so he agreed to her request. “I Understand. I’ll have a talk with them before they publish anything.”

After he told her that, Himeko was smiling for the remainder of the night while helping out clean up after the show.

Chikane meanwhile, had changed from her costume. Sister Miyako thought it was the perfect time to approach her. “Miya-san, I know it’s you. Do you have a moment to spare?” Chikane was shocked to hear her voice. She turned around head and saw Sister Miyako, still in her 19th-century clothing. Miyako continued, “It’s good to see you again.”

“So that you can bring me back to that hellhole. Like hell you are!”

“No Miya-san, It’s not like that!”

“You won’t send me back there!” she panicked.

“But Miya-san, I-”

Without waiting for Sister Miyako to complete her sentence, Chikane bolted from the room like lightning, knocking her over. As soon as she got up, Miyako started to chase her, \"Miya-san, wait! Please come back, please!\" But it was useless, for Chikane was much faster and she was able to escape.

It was two in the morning when Himeko got home. She was tired but still jubilated with joy. She couldn\'t believe how much her project made a difference in people\'s lives. As she went to sleep she finally realized that it was her who made the difference and not the project. This was a new and exciting revelation to Himeko, one that will be etched in her memory for as long as she lives. What she doesn\'t realize is that there will be plenty of more to come for her.

Chapter 14

Title: Auld Lang Syne

[Author's notes: Japanese Terminology and References.

Yep, I'm bringing it back again! I couldn't avoid it because there were some Japanese important words and references in this chapter.

Akemashte Omedetou - Why it means 'Happy New Year!'

Hatsumode - The first shrine visit of the year. This is where people go a make their first "wish" of the new year. Lots of praying also takes place during Hatsumode. It is considered the biggest Shinto festival of the year.

Auld Lang Syne – A song that is sang traditionally during the New Year right after the clock strikes 12. Look it up at Wikipedia]

The day after Christmas, Tokyo returned back to its normal self... for a short time, as the city was about to focus on New Year's Day. The people of Tokyo, and pretty much all of Japan, have a unique way of celebrating hatsumode. But there's a lot more going on than just praying and wishing at the shrine. In fact, it's more like a festival! There are stalls in the area that sell souvenirs, charms, toys, and food.

The Solar and Lunar Temple was no exception to the madness. It is one of the most popular shrines to visit for the hatsumode. Celebrating the New Year was the shrine's long tradition, dating way back to when Japan was still following the lunar-solar calendar. The shrine had over a million visitors in the previous year, so Sensei Kazuki Oogami knew he was going to need as much help as he can get. He was sure that he was going to get it from Souma and Makoto, but he had his doubts with Yukihito. It wouldn't have been much of an issue if Girochi wasn't leaving town with his girlfriend, and Sister Miyako didn't have a month-long job assignment in Nagasaki for her job, but now his concern was growing.

Additionally, his working relationship between him and Yukihito was even more strained than ever; since he's been showing up to work late, coming in tired, and showing a lack of appreciation for his job. It had taken a toll on Kazuki and also on the shrine, since Yukihito was irritable most of the time and left a lot of the work unfinished. He knew he needed to get more help, but where can he get reliable help, even if it's temporary? Who can he trust to help him with the necessary task of running the festival? He always had some sort of issues in the past when New Year's Day comes around, but he couldn't recall a time as stressful as this.

He didn't have to worry too much about his shrine being vandalized again, or any other trouble going on during the hatsumode, since he got the Shinjuku Police Department to assign him a few police officers. Setsuna, Girochi's co-worker and friend, was the head officer for the hatsumode.

With all that was going on around him, he never showed it to his brother or to Makoto. His stoic demeanor was always intact. After all, he's in charge of one of the most important shrines in Tokyo. Any sign of weakness he figured would make him and the shrine look bad. Regardless, deep down inside, he knew he was going to need some sort of help and soon.


Yukihito on the other hand, had his own issues. His family was going through some hard times since his father has been laid off. His mother was still working, but had to take a salary cut in order to keep her job. They had to cut down on many things because of their financial situation. The stress it caused on Yukihito was a bit too much for him to handle, so he started to stay out late, hanging out with his other friends nobody knew about, not even his close buddy Soumo or his family. Nor did they know the activities that were taken place. It was starting to take a toll not only on his work performance, but also on his school work and his relationship with his family.

It had been only an hour and a half since Yukihito came to work, late again, yet he started to yawn already. Kazuki noticed his tiredness and was peeved about it.

"Haven't you got enough sleep Yuki-san?"

"I did get enough sleep, it just that" - YAWN.

That was the last straw for Kazuki, and he let him know that. "Look, I just about had it with you and your work habits. I don't know what's going on with you, but you've been coming here late and tired, and it shows in your work. I mean, we got a huge hatsumode coming up on New Year's Eve, and I'm very shorthanded. I need all the help I can get and you're not making the situation any easier. In fact, I still haven't found any mikos who are willing to help us; all of the ones I've asked are too scared to join. Starting today, if you don't start coming here on time and alert with a better attitude, I will have to terminate your position. And I'm serious about it, understand?"

That was a complete shock to Yukihito. He didn't think it would even come down to this.

"Understand," he meekly replied.

"Good, now go make yourself a cup of tea with honey. I want you to be wide awake. We got a lot of work to do."

He went to make himself some tea, yet all that time he was thinking about what Kazuki just said. While he was making his tea, Souma came up to him.

"Hey dude, what's going on with you and Nii-san?"

"He threatened to fire me, if I don't come to work on time and fully alert."

"Oh. I'm not surprised."

Yukihito was a bit offended by Souma's response, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Souma knew he couldn't beat around the bush with him. He couldn't bear to see his best friend continuously struggling, "Dude, let me tell you straight up, things haven't gone so well with your work here lately. No offense, but it has been a bit sloppy lately. I have to clean up after you on certain occasions. Plus all the arguing between you and Nii-san are not making things better."

Yukihito was about to protest, but then he paused and started to think all the things that happened between him and Kazuki. After that, he just closed his eyes and responded, "You're right. I cant' argue with you about it. There's a lot going on, but there's not much I can do about it," he gloomed.

Souma saw the look and did his best to reassure his friend, "Look, you need to get your mind off of this. After you're done with your work here, let's go chill at your place and play some games on your Playstation, like we used to do back in the days."

"Uhh, I can't. I don't have my Playstation anymore, I sold it."

"Well no problem, bro. How about we just chill at your place."

"Uhh, I can't. Sorry, I got things to do after. Anyways, I need to head back to work."

With that he quickly drank his tea and went straight back to work. Souma had a puzzled look on his face; he couldn't understand what was going on.


The following day was a very cold day, but Himeko still had that warm feeling from the wonderful effect of yesterday's play. She still couldn't believe that the event went well. In fact, she was surprised that she actually did something that went well.

"For once, something I do in my life goes right," she said to herself in front of her finger-printed mirror.

Which is totally not true since she had always done so well in art-related activities. Her self-confidence issue makes her blind to the things she does so well.

Despite her pessimistic self-reflection, Himeko was getting herself ready to meet up with Chikane but she didn't have to. Chikane swung by to see her.

"Hey there Himeko."

"Chikane-chan!" she elated with joy. "What made you come down here?" she said as she gave her partner a lovingly hug.

"I just came to say thank you for all that you've done to make the play happen."

Himeko modestly answered, "It was really nothing. I bet you could have pulled it off too."

Chikane saw through it and knew that she wasn't giving herself credit.

"Himeko, the fact that you were able to pull it off is the only thing that really matters, not that if I or anyone else could pull it off. You're not giving yourself the credit you deserve."

"There's nothing special about me. I'm not as strong, streetwise, and strong-willed as you are. I'm just a clumsy, naïve little girl who just got lucky," she whined.

"And you're also a perceptive, talented, generous, kind-hearted young woman, and last night all of that was shown. Honestly, it was shown the entire time you started making the play happen. It wasn't luck that made the show a success, it was very much you, and all the effort you put into it. There's no need to beat yourself up."

Himeko just hid her head in shame on Chikane's tattered jacket.

"It's so hard. Even though I accomplish something great, I feel that it's not going to last and that it doesn't guarantee that I will succeed the next time. People will expect something better from me and I will disappoint them. It seems like I'm always disappointing someone, especially my relatives. They were always disappointed in me."

"You can never please everybody, that's part of life. Plus, what makes you think you will become a loser because of that? And what makes you think that you're a loser at all? I don't think so. Nor does Neko-san, Hana-chan, or any of those people we met at the tower, or the people who attended the play. And especially the children at the orphanage, they really loved what you've done for them. Haven't' you seen how happy they are when you're there? Maybe your relatives don't appreciate you, but everybody else does, especially me. Himeko, you are capable of making an impact in people's lives, you can't let those terrible times in the past control your future. The truth is, you're actually a winner, since you really went outside your shell and your comfort zone to make the play a success. I wish I could say the same about myself."

Himeko saw in Chikane's face that she was about to drown in her own sorrow, so she replied, "But you have, Chikane-chan. You trusted me enough to pretty much leave me in change of running the play. You trusted me enough to start a business with me and also to allow me to take you to a convention that you are not familiar with. You trust Hana-chan enough to allow him to put makeup on you and to be his friend. And most important of all, you trusted me enough to give your heart to me. That I think is the one thing you can't do unless you trust someone. In fact, before we became close, I still remember how cold and distant you were. You've made a lot of progress as well!"

Chikane didn't realize all this before Himeko told her. A small smile was drawn upon her face that gradually grew into a full grin.

"Thanks Himeko. That's one of the reasons why I'm so glad that you're my girlfriend."

Himeko blushed at the compliment and teased, "You're welcome, but I can't think of just one reason why I'm glad that you're my girlfriend!"

Chikane simply just chuckled and then she hugged her, "There's no need to tell me dear, you can save that for another time." After a few minutes of small talk while they embraced each other, someone came up to the tent, it was their friend Hana.

"Hey girls, how are you two darlings - Oops, sorry to interrupt you."

"No it's okay. We're fine, thank you. What brought you down here, Hana-chan?" Himeko asked.

"Well, I was at the station saying good-bye to Sister Miyako. She had to go to Nagasaki for her job. Since I was nearby, I just wanted to thank you two for the success of the play. Seeing the joy on the faces of the people and particularly the kids really made me happy."

That made Himeko blush again.

"See what I mean Himeko, they really appreciate what you've done. So there's really no need to self-doubt yourself," Chikane confirmed.

"Absolutely not," Hana added. "Plus, I was there earlier and Father Tadeu wants to have a party to celebrate the event's success. He definitely wants you two to be there, especially this little angel," he said pointing to Himeko.

"Really?" Himeko said as her face lit up. "That's great, when is it?"

"Tomorrow evening. You don't need to put on anything fancy, but you need to put on something clean. Even though we're bums, we don't need to look like it or smell like it!"

They chuckled, and then Chikane stated, "Don't worry about me, you know I always keep myself clean."

"Yes I know very well. I still remember that incident."

"What incident?"

"At the Salvation Army a few months back. While we were eating, I accidentally spilled some soy sauce on Chikane-chan's shirt. She made me wash her shirt. Boy I tell you, Chikane can be like a field general!"

"Hey, I put a lot of time making those clothes look nice!" Chikane protested.

"So do I, you know very well that I always have to look marvelous, but I don't make somebody wash my clothes if they spill something on it accidentally." Hana then asked, "What about you little darling, do you have any clean casual clothes?"

Himeko answered uneasily, "Ano… I don't have any."

Chikane intervened, "Don't worry about it, Hana-chan. She will have some by tomorrow."

"Well that's good. Hope to see you two there tomorrow. Also, do you two have plans for New Year's Eve?"

Chikane thought for a second then answered, "No, I don't think so. Why? You want me to come to that annual New Year's Eve Bash that you always go to?"

"Of course honey child, you know it's gonna be lots of fun!"

"Yes, I've heard. But you know I'm not really big on celebrations. Me and Himeko did go out for our birthday, but that was an exception."

"Yes, everybody in Shinjuku knows you're anti-social, but trust me, you and Hime-chan will have a great time there. I know me and the 'girls' will. There will be lots of partying, and lots of performances as well."

Himeko was new to all of this, so she asked, "What type of performances?"

"All kinds, girfriend. There will be singers, dancers, comedians, okamas, nyu-dandies…"

The last part took Himeko by surprise, "Nyu-dandies, what is that?"

"Nyu-dandies are women who dress up as men. There's quite a few of them at Ni-Chome, which is where it's being held. I tell you, there's no place in the world better to hold a New Year's Eve party than at Shinjuku Ni-Chome. I don't care what anybody else says. So what do you say, huh?"

Chikane looked at Himeko and asked, "Do you want to go?"

"Of course, it sounds like it's going to be lots of fun. Besides, I like to see some nyu-dandies and okamas on the stage."

Chikane chuckled, "Well okay. We'll be there."

"Great! Trust me, you won't regret it. I got to go back to my place. I'll see you ladies later."

"See you later, Hana-chan." Chikane replied.

"Take care, Hana-chan." Himeko said.

Himeko had a questioning look on her face, "Where are we going to get some clothes for me? I don't have any casual stuff."

"Don't worry about it. I know a place where we can find some."


Later on that day, Himeko and Chikane were at the back of Upstart Move, a clothing store in Shibuya, doing some 'shopping' so to speak… It was more geared towards American style, but that was fine because they were looking for casual. The girls were looking through all the clothes in the trash bags and bins. Himeko was amazed at the amount of clothes they threw away.

"Wow, there's so much stuff here. Why would they throw all this away? Isn't it very wasteful?"

"Yes it is unfortunately. If they can't sell it, they'll throw it out. It's usually not this much, it's just that Christmas season just passed and that they're getting ready for the new items coming out next year, so they're basically clearing inventory. It's unfortunate that they don't seem to know or care that there are people out there who would be glad to have these clothes, even if they're not very new."

"But it's fortunate for us!" she elated.

Chikane gave a small smile, "That's true. But I can't help feeling sorry for some woman whose working somewhere in some poor county. She's probably slaving away long hours on measly wages just to make these clothes and all that happens to them is that they get thrown out."

"Yeah, you only start to appreciate these things when you have nothing."

"Sad but true," Chikane agreed. While she was going through the clothes, she noticed something, "Dammit, dammit, dammit!"

"What is it Chikane-chan?"

"Those bastards cut up the clothes so that nobody can wear them. What a bunch of selfish and ungrateful jerks," she muttered.

Feeling a bit disappointed, Himeko said, "Oh my, then maybe we should be going somewhere else to find some new clothes?"

"Maybe, but let's still take a look. Who knows, there might be one that's not cut as badly so I can fix it. I do have a small sewing kit back at the station."

"You know how to sew?"

"Yes, I sure do. I learned it back in the orphanage."

"That's great! I know how to sew as well! So they teach you how to sew there?"

"Well yeah, because the nuns thought that all we could ever amount to is being Stepford wives for rich husbands. So pretty much all of us learned stuff like sewing, cooking, cleaning, proper etiquettes, etc."

"Oh I see. Well at least you don't have to worry about sending your clothes to a tailor."

"That's true indeed. Well, let's keep on looking. I'm pretty sure we can find something. If not, we can go to Shibuya 109 and see if they got something."

So they kept on searching until Himeko found a soft teal cardigan sweater that she liked.

"Hey, I found something!"

"What is it?"

"It a long shaker-knit cardigan that has no cuts in it. I think it would go great with my white shirt!"

"I think so too, but you need a scarf with it, and I just happened to find one."


Chikane pulled out the scarf from another trash bag and showed it to Himeko. It was a light gray scarf with various shades of long gray and black stripes. "Yes, I think it will go well. There's a cut in it, but I can sew it up and since it's in the middle, you can cover it up. Now all we need to do is to find you a nice pair of jeans and you are all set."

"Thanks, I think I'll look a lot different."

Chikane nodded in agreement, "You sure will. You'll look a lot more mature, since you wont' be wearing anything childish. Clothes really make a difference in how people perceive you. You will need to lose the bow. It doesn't match with the clothes anyways."

Himeko pouted a little bit, but she thought about it and saw Chikane's point. Cute as it was, that bright red bow would stick out like a sore thumb.

"You're right. I'll take it off. I really do hope this makes me look more mature."

"Trust me, it will," she assured.

Unintentionally, it made Himeko pause for a thought.

"Is that how people see me, just a little girl who is not capable of growing up? Someone that could never be taken seriously?" Himeko asked with a touch of sadness.

Chikane saw it and did her best to comfort her while still telling her the truth, "Yes some people do, but that's because they don't know you. And those who do, know that you're much more than just a little girl. Like I told you earlier, you are a young lady, no matter what they think of you."

Himeko still held her head down in despair; Chikane lifted her chin up and gently told her, "Look, do you know how many people would love to do what you just did?" Himeko didn't say a thing. "A lot, Himeko, a lot. No little girl could have pulled it off. You can trust me on that. Unlike a little child, you took a big risk and you didn't run away from it. Instead, you gave it everything. That's the ultimate sign of maturity to me."

At first Himeko didn't say anything, contemplating what Chikane just said, then it finally sank in. A smile lit up her face. "I see, thanks a lot Chikane-chan."

"No problem, now let's see if we can find some more clothes?"

"For me?"

"Not just for you, but for me as well. This opportunity doesn't come too often, I need some new threads myself!"


The next day was the party. They got there on time, no small thanks to Chikane's bossiness and punctuality. When they arrived, they saw Nekoko, Hana, Natashi, and all the other friends. The orphans were there as well. At the same time, everybody spotted them. They gave the two girls a rousing applause. Father Tadeu came up and ardently greeted them.

"Hello Himeko-san and Chikane-san, it's good to see you two, especially the girl who made it all possible," he gleamed.

Himeko, blushing a deep red, replied, "Thanks, but you guys had a lot to do with this as well."

Tadeu chuckled, "Don't be so modest, you truly deserve the full credit." Chikane just looked at her and grinned, giving her that 'see I told you so' look. Tadeu continued, "I'm glad you two are here, because we didn't want to eat before you got here and I'm starving, so let's eat!"

Then everybody lined up to get their food from a huge buffet table. It had many different types of foods, ranging from traditional Japanese to more 'exotic' foods like Brazilian. It further convinced Chikane where he was getting his money from.

"See, I told you he's got some of the money from the Yakuza. There's no way he could have paid for all this, and there's absolutely no way that the Church would pay for something like this, especially for such a dingy orphanage."

Himeko wasn't too surprised, so she shrugged, "True, but it's still for the good of the people who helped and for the kids as well. It looks like the kids are excited, they probably never had experienced something like this before."

After everyone had sat and started to dine on their food, Yukihito came over to join them. He greeted his friends at the table and grabbed a space at the end next to Makoto.

"I got to thank you for letting me play Bob Crachit. I really enjoyed playing that role."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Himeko said.

"He enjoys anything that allows him to rub it in Nii-san's face," Soumo added.

Yukihito had a menacing smirk on his face and responded, "I sure do."

Himeko knew better than to go further with it, so she just nodded in agreement. Then Yukihito talked about Souma and Makoto's play.

"Dude, that play you two did was totally awesome. Did you see how you two got the crowd on their feet?"

"We sure did. I'm glad we chose that play," Souma replied.

"I'm glad we did too, honey. But to tell you the truth, I was afraid my wig was going to fall off!"

Everybody laughed, then Yukihito added, "But I tell you, it would be more interesting if it was Hime-san and Chika-san doing the play." he smirked. That totally shocked Himeko and Chikane, but Yukihito continued, "I mean come on, it would have made the play even more interesting. Besides, lesbians are hot."

Himeko and Chikane were put off from what he just said. Surprisingly, it was Himeko that spoke up, "Yuki-san, it would be nice to have a same-sex couple playing a similar role, but just to show that they are no different from a straight couple. Not for some straight men's fan service."

Makoto rolled her eyes when she heard it, believing what he was saying was pure bullshit. "Do you really mean 'lesbians are hot', as in 'hawt lesbian sex'?"

"Well yeah, that too. I mean let's be honest, what man does not fantasize about two women making love? I'm sure Souma-san does once in a while." Souma blushed when he heard that.

"Dude, come on! Don't put me on the spot like that!"

Everybody was giggling and then Makoto responded, "Well it's going to remain a fantasy, because he knows very well that I'm very much straight." Souma was relieved.

Himeko inquired, "Really?"

"Yeah. Just because I have short hair and that I'm good at sports doesn't automatically make me a butch lesbian. I hate that stereotype. Since I was always a 'tomboy', many girls thought I was gay. I used to get love letters from them; in fact some of them still send them to me!"

"Well that's what happens when you attend the most liberal private school in Tokyo," Souma noted.

"What school is that?" Himeko asked.

"Hanayaka Secondary School. It specializes in Arts, Music, Humanities, and Athletics. It would be perfect for you two."

"Yeah, but they would have to take a test to get in and it's very tough. Only the very talented gets in," noted Makoto.

"And the very well connected as well. But really, why should we go back to school? I'd rather be here on the streets. At least I'm free and independent, and I'm making some sort of money. I don't have to worry about some teacher breathing down my neck," Chikane noted.

"But I don't mind going back to school," Himeko responded. "It sounds like a fun school and I would like to meet new friends."

"But Himeko, you got friends already."

"Yeah, but I would like to meet new friends who are into art and photography, so we can share ideals, paintings, and maybe even pictures. Also, I'd get to learn new techniques and improve on my skills. Besides, most jobs require to have a college degree and in order to get that, you have to finish high school."

"Well that's true," Chikane reluctantly admitted. "But back to what Yuki-san said, what men really fantasize are two bisexual women having 'hawt lesbian sex', since it means a 'threesome' for them. Lesbians won't have anything like that, since they don't have any sexual interest in men, like me and Himeko," Chikane said to Yukihito with her straight face, giving a clear hint to him, but inside she was laughing like hell. Yukihito felt embarrassed.

"What makes you think I want something like that between you and Himeko? It could be pure innocent love."

"Sure Yuki-san… It's the way you showed your interest about it. Also the way you implied the 'lesbian fantasies' that men have. But you need to know that what me and Himeko have is a private party of two, and you, or anybody else for that matter, are not invited," By that time she couldn't hold her laughter anymore. Himeko joined in and then everybody else.

"So it's like that, huh?" Yukihito teased.

"It sure is!" They both said while still laughing. She was holding Himeko next to her and laid her head on top of Himeko.

"Well, can you at least make a videotape of you two making out for me?"

Everyone were surprised to hear that, but Himeko jokingly slapped him lightly on his shoulders, "No silly! Like what Chikane-chan said, it's a private affair."

"Besides, we don't want it to end up on the Internet or on some Girls Gone Wild DVD," Chikane joked.

Amongst the laughter, Kazuki stepped in. "Tachibana-san, you can't stay here for too long. You need to go back and set up a few of the stands for the hatsumode."

Yukihito wasn't pleased with this. He thought that he was having a fun time, and once again Kazuki ruined it. He wasn't in the mood, so he blew him off, "Yeah, yeah..." he scoffed.

"Are you disrespecting me?"

"No I'm not, sensei. But I'm sick and tired of you barking orders to me. 'Tachibana-san do this, Tachibana-san do that'."

"You're my assistant. You're supposed to help me out with my duties."

"Yeah, and I don't get much gratitude for it, do I?"

"What have you done to deserve such gratitude? Your work has been unsatisfactory lately."

"Well for you, nothing is good enough for you. You're just grumpy and miserable all the time!"

"Grumpy and miserable all the time? You've been a good assistant for all these years, it's just these past few months that you've been careless."

Yukihito felt unjustified when he said that, so he growled back, "Careless? I got other issues going on in my life!"

"That's what it seems, but you know you have to be professional when it comes to your job."

"Professional? You know nothing about being professional! All you know how to do is to get on my nerves."

Kazuki was very pissed at this point, but somehow he managed to keep his cool demeanor, "You know what, if that's how you feel then don't help me for New Years. In fact, don't help me out at all. As of now, I'm relieving you from your duties."

"Fine!" he shouted back, and he immediately left the area. Kazuki just closed his eyes and just walked away. He didn't say a word. Everybody was very concerned, especially Souma.


Meanwhile, somewhere else in Tokyo, a middle-aged blond woman was surfing through the net. While she was surfing, another lady came up to her. She was a tall brunette with short-hair and glasses.

"Hey honey, what are you looking at?"

"I got an e-mail telling me to check out the gallery section of some website. They are pictures from a convention that was held two months ago."

The other woman took a look, "My brother sent you the email, didn't he?"

"He did. How did you guess?"

"It's on the email, genius," she told her while rolling her eyes.

Felling foolish, she responded, "Oh yeah, hee hee."

Conversely, the other woman was not in a joking mood, "Jesus Christ, you're still communicating with him?" she protested.

"Look sweetie, I know he stole your story but you need to let it go."

"I'm supposed to let it go? He and his old frat buddy are making lots of money off of it, while bastardizing and butchering it to cater to those loser fan-boy otakus, who probably never left their parent's basement? Right now, he's about to soak his body in a warm Jacuzzi while I have to take a shower in cold water since the hot water isn't working today. Yeah, that's real easy to let go..." she said in her cold monotone voice.

The other lady just chuckled, "It's not doing you any good to hold that grudge, is it? Besides, those loser fan-boy otakus who lives in their parent's basement will be the ones financing your butt when you finally become a successful mangaka."

As she turned away from the other woman and the computer, she responded, "That's true. Isn't it great that my financial future depends on a bunch of otakus?"

While navigating through the gallery pictures, the other woman said, "Come on now, it couldn't be that bad. I mean after all, you could be…" She immediately stopped speaking when she spotted one particular picture in the gallery. There was nothing really spectacular about the picture, yet it made her totally speechless.

The other woman, taken a bit surprised by the sudden interruption, turned around and asked, "Hey what's going on? Why did you suddenly stop… Oh my God." That was all she said.

The blonde just kept staring at the picture, focused on the younger blonde in the picture, who looked almost like her. Finally, the woman spoke.

"My baby…"


Himeko seemed concerned about Kazuki's situation, and privately brought it up to Chikane.

"It looks like Oogami-sensei needs some help."

"Well good luck to him finding some help."

Himeko thought otherwise, "Maybe we should help him."

"Himeko, are you kidding me? Do you know how much he owes us?"

"Yes I realize that, but maybe we can make some money off of it. I know hatsumodes are very similar to what my relatives hold on New Year's Eve."

"What do they hold?"

"Every year they hold a big New Year's Eve celebration in our annex right next to the church. They have a big dinner, tongue-speaking, faith-healing, games, everything. They charge a lot of money for it, and believe it or not, a lot of people have no problems paying for it."

"So what you're saying is that maybe he can share some of the money he makes from the hatsumode with us?"


Chikane started to like the idea, "Hmm… I'll give it a try, but I want to take a few precautions just in case."

"What do you have in mind?"

Chikane told her, and she nodded in agreement.

"Okay, sounds fair enough." So they went up to see him.

"Are you okay Oogami-sensei?" Himeko asked.

"Yes I'm fine," he said. He didn't want to admit it, but Himeko and Chikane knew otherwise.

"We can help you with the hatsumode if you want."

He lit up, "Really?"

"Sure we can, however as I discussed it with Chikane-chan, we will have to be paid for this one."

"That's not a problem. I do have a paying position in mind for you two girls?"

"Really, what is it?" Chikane asked.

"I want you two to be mikos for the Hatsumode."

That was a surprise to both girls, "Mikos? Are you sure?" Chikane wondered.

"I'm very positive. From what I've seen every day, you two have a strong work ethic. I think both of you would make great mikos."

"But we don't know anything about being a miko. We're not even Buddhists." Himeko reminded him.

Kazuki chuckled, "Yeah, I see. Mikos are a part of Shinto, not Buddhism, but don't fret on it. I know somebody who will teach you all the necessary elements of being a miko."

"That's nice and all sensei, but let's cut the chase. How much are we going to get paid for this?" asked Chikane.

"It will be about 1800 yen per hour. You could be working as much as ten hours a day, but you will be working at least six hours a day."

That got the girls' interest. "That sounds like a good deal and we accept the offer, right Himeko?" She nodded her head in agreement. "However there's one more thing."

"What is it?"

"I will need for you to sign a contract."

"A contract?" shocked Kazuki. He didn't know that they were going to go this far. "Can't you just take my word?"

"No. In my experience in dealing with shady shysters, I learned that it's always best to protect one's self. We need it in writing just in case." Kazuki couldn't blame her; he probably would have done the same thing. "So after we leave here, we are going to an internet café and type up a contract. It shouldn't take us no more than two hours just to make one. So when we're done we will come to your place with the contract and you will agree to sign it. Understood?"

He was surprised that Chikane would demand this from him like that, but he knew that it was pointless to argue, for they did have the upper hand. "I don't have much of a choice, do I?"

"Not really. We are going out our way to help you, and we have voluntarily helped you in the past. I think what we're doing is fair."

Kazuki was impressed in how Chikane was able to diplomatically state her case. It made him even more confident that they were the right people for the job.

"I see your point, and I do agree to your conditions. I will be at my temple all day long, so there's no need to rush."

"Good." Chikane spoke and all three bowed to finalize the agreement. The girls said their goodbyes and left the party.


True to their word, they went to an Internet Cafe immediately after the party and started typing up the contract. Well, it was mostly Chikane, with Himeko inputting on a few things. Two hours later they had themselves a 'genuine' contract. Not one to waste precious time, Chikane, along with Himeko, went to Kazuki's shrine. True to his word, Kazuki signed the contract, amazed at how detailed it was. Before then, he didn't realize how serious Chikane was about it.

The next day, the two girls came to the temple ready to work. Himeko was rather excited about it.

"Wow, isn't this great being mikos?"

"Himeko, mikos are nothing like what you see in anime or manga. They don't go around casting spells or fighting bad guys, or in the case of that anime you like, riding mechas. All they really do is perform traditional dances, provide fortune-telling, assist in wedding events and in our case, help out with the hatsumode. Hell, most of them are just college students working to make some pocket money."

"I know that, but still, I think it will be a great experience being mikos!"

Chikane shrugged, "Well it sure beats being a nun."

When they got there, they were surprised to see someone else standing at the entrance. Judging by her clothes, it looked like another miko. She was a long-haired, pigtailed, lavender-haired girl, probably around Chikane's height. It was clear that she was a no-nonsense type as she had her arms folded while waiting.

"Are you two Kurusugaw Himeko and Himemiya Chikane?"

"Hai" they said in unison.

"Good, sensei told me that you two are going to be mikos for the hatsumode. So I am to give you two a crash course in miko training. Since I am training you two, I want you two to refer to me as 'Senpai Hiiragi', understood!"

"Hai," Himeko simply answered.

"I too will participate in the hatsumode because two mikos will not be enough for the crowd. You can trust me on that. My sisters and I will be participating."

"Well that's a relief," Chikane sighed.

"But don't you dare think that you won't be doing anything for hatsumode, because you will bust your butts out there just like the rest of us!" she yelled.

Himeko and Chikane were taken aback at her abrasiveness. They knew they better not get on her bad side or else…

"Ok women, follow me!"

For the next four hours, they were taught the finer points of dancing, fortune-telling, Hatsumode, and of the Shinto religion itself. During the dance practices, Himeko fell a few times, and it made the elder miko shake her head in disbelief.

It was a bit overwhelming for the girls but they were both able to hang on. The remaining time was used to set things up for the hatsumode.

For the next two days, nothing special happened, as they were doing their duties for the hatsumode. Most of the time, Himeko and Chikane were basically in one of the stalls selling Good Luck charms and Bad Luck wards, but on occasions they assisted Kazuki. Kazuki was made aware of the fact that they were going to a New Year's Eve party, so he made sure they got things done before they leave.


On New Year's Eve night, while the girls were doing their work, Hana arrived at the gate to pick them up. Kazuki and the police officer Setsuna was there.

"Well hello there. I'm surprised to see you. I thought you would be at the club right now?" Kazuki said.

"Of course I will be, I just came here to pick up Hime-chan and Kane-chan."

"Oh yes! They told me about it. I say, you look quite different today. Who are you supposed to be?"

"Let me guess, you're supposed to be… Mui Anita!" Setsuna guessed.

"You're absolutely correct! No other than the late and great Mui Anita," he said while giving a diva pose. He was wearing a stylish yet sophisticated and elaborate red dress with golden knee-high boots and the scratched ruby necklace that Chikane gave him. The late Hong Kong singer/actress Anita Mui wore them in one of her concerts.

"Wow, you really do look like the late diva!"

"I better! I spent hours putting on this makeup!"

"Who is Mui Anita?" Kazuki asked. He's doesn't keep up with Asian pop-culture much.

"You don't know who she is?" Setsuna asked in amazement.

"I don't keep up with such things."

"Understandable, sensei. Mui Anita was a famous singer/actress from Hong Kong. She was one of the most popular females in Asia during her time. Unfortunately she died of cancer. She was a true diva and this is my way to celebrate the memory of her."

"Oh ok," is all he said. He still didn't have any idea who she was. "Let me get the two ladies. I'll be right back."

About two minutes later, Kazuki came back with the girls.

"Hana-chan!" Himeko elated as she hugged him.

"It's always nice to see you as usual, little darling."

"Hi Hana-chan," Chikane said. She was not the hugging type.

"Hey there Chikane-chan, how are you doing?"

"Fine as usual," she said in her typical unexcited voice.

"Come on now girl, cheer up! We're gonna have a ball!"

"I hope so," Chikane said with a hint of skepticism.

"Trust me on this one. Have I ever lied to you?"

"Well there was this time that you promised me to borrow your scarf, and there was this other time…"

"Okay, okay, I get your point! Anyways, do you girls have your dress clothes with you, or do we have to stop at your places?"

"No need, we brought them. We didn't have any costume, just some regular formal dresses."

"That will be fine, not everybody can look as fabulous as me!" Practically everybody rolled their eyes when he said that, while Himeko just giggled. "Just put them on and let's get going, I don't want to miss the performances!"

They put on their dresses and came back. The people were impressed with what they were wearing. Himeko was wearing turquoise floral appliqué knee-length cocktail dress with the embroidery around the bust and on the waist; while Chikane was wearing a glittering peacock-blue one-shoulder evening gown.

"My, my, my, you two look gorgeous!"

"Why thanks. We found these at the back of Studio 109," Himeko informed.

"Oh yeah, you'll find some great stuff back there. Well let's get going, the show might start any minute."

Without a moment to spare, they headed straight to the club.


As they got to the club, Hana pulled out the tickets to get in. When they got in, they met up with the rest of the 'girls.'

"Hey Hana-chan, we didn't think you would get here on time," Keroshi, one of Hana's 'girls' said.

"Sorry about that, I had to pick up a few people."

"No problem. So I see you brought Hime-san and Kane-san along."

"Of course! They're a part of the family."

"What does he mean by 'family'?" Himeko asked.

"It's just a slang we use for someone who is gay, since we tend to be a tight-knit community."

"Oh I see, like a family?"

"Exactly, but an even more dysfunctional family..."

"One that can dance and has lots of wonderful clothing in the closet!" Hana joked. One of the 'girls' noticed the necklace.

"Hey, nice dress! And where did you get the necklace from?"

"Oh, a good friend gave it to me," he coyly answered. Himeko heard it, and saw the necklace herself. It was the same one Chikane stole from the pawn shop. Himeko was not happy about it.

"Chikane-chan, can I speak to you privately?"

"Uh sure… What is it about?"

Himeko didn't say a word until they were in the bathroom. When they got in, Himeko showed her displeasure.

"Why did you give him that necklace? Why?" she said with concern. She was very upset, but she was not the shouting type.

"Because he's a good friend of mine, and he wanted it. He has done a lot for me when no one else even wanted me around."

"But what happens if someone recognizes it? Something might happen to him. I don't want to see Hana-chan put in jail or get hurt."

Chikane sighed, "Himeko, there's over 30 million people in this city. What are the chances of them finding out? There's a better chance of winning the All-Japan lottery than them finding out. There's no need to worry. Believe me."

Himeko wasn't sure, but eventually she gave in, "Okay."


They returned to their table. When they got back, they were listening to the girls taking, "Hey, are you going to be up on stage Hana-chan?" said another member of the 'girls.'

"Maybe, maybe not; a diva is never predictable," he said while holding his head up in the air, like a stereotypical diva.

"Tell me about it, I used to live with one…" Chikane muttered.

"Corona-san is a wanna-be diva, she could never fit in my boots!" Everybody laughed. Then the announcer came on the stage. He dressed like the early-90s version of Madonna during her Blond Ambition tour. That included the cone-shaped bra she wore.

"Welcome to the 2004 New Year's Eve Party, which of course will turn into 2005!" Everybody cheered and applauded. "We're going to have a great show tonight for all you guys, gals, and something in-between out there… drag or not!" That got a few chuckles. "There will be singers, dancers, comedians, even a magic act, believe it or not!" That got some amusement from the crowd. "And we are going to keep it going until around 11:50PM, when we get ready for the countdown! So sit back and enjoy the show!"

The performance was filled with drag kings, drag queens, dance troupes, and of course, the magic act. Hana did eventually appear on the stage and sang an Anita Mui's classic, "Bad Girl". Everybody was enjoying the entertainment. Himeko was surprised that there were so many drag queens and kings around. This was all new to her and she was enjoying the experience.

Then the time came. It was only 11:50 and everybody came to witness the upcoming fireworks and to see Tokyo Towers light up the New Year. There was a temporary clock in the middle of the street for the countdown. It was cold and slushy outside, as it had snowed and rained throughout most of the day, yet it didn't bother the crowd. When the clock stroked 11:59, the countdown started. 59...58...57... The crowd were anticipating the new coming year with enthusiasm. Himeko started to think about what she wanted to wish for the upcoming New Year. She asked Chikane, "So Chikane-chan, what do you wish for this coming year?"

"What do I wish for? Well I wish to have a nice place to stay, to have a master piano if my place is big enough, and to always be there for you."

Himeko's face flushed a deep red and gave her partner a heartfelt hug, "Thank you as always." She continued, "My wish is to bring peace, love, and harmony to everybody around me, if not, the world! I also wish to be a good friend to all my friends, and to always be there for you as well."

It was Chikane's turn to blush, but she responded, "Thanks, but do you really think you can bring peace, love, and harmony to this world?"

"Maybe not, but it sure is better to try and fail than to not try at all."

Chikane smiled, "That's very true indeed!"

Finally the clock got down to the final ten seconds. Everybody was counting down: 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1 - Happy New Year!

The fireworks went off and the sky was covered with bursts of light. The Tokyo Tower displayed a big, lighted 2005 sign as the crowd celebrates the New Year.

" Akemashte Omedetou, Chikane-chan!"

" Akemashte Omedetou to you too, Himeko!"

They kissed to celebrate the brand new year as they watched the fireworks.

In Japanese tradition, the New Year's means a new clean slate, as everything in the past is done with. Yet, it was also a time to reflect back on the past, as many people sang "Hotaru no hikari", a Japanese version of Auld Lang Syne.

This was a new chapter in everybody's lives. For some, it was the beginning of something new, but for others, it was just the beginning of the end…

Chapter 15

Title: Home Sweet Home?

[Author's notes:

Japanese references:

Takashimaya – A large department store chain in Japan. Basically their version of Target.


January 1, 2005

Morning for a new year had begun in Tokyo. The temples and shrines were starting to get people again. Business will be closed for the next three days, as part of Japanese tradition. Kazuki was getting the temple ready for the massive crowd. Himeko and Chikane will come later at around 10 am. He didn't need them for the early morning; he and Souma could handle the early crowd.

Himeko and Chikane didn't get much sleep, yet they were up by 8 am. They had to head back to the shrine and continue on with their miko duties. But before they go to work, they had to get some food for the New Year. Traditionally in Japan, people eat a set of dishes called osechi-ryori. Each of these dishes have a particular meaning have a meaning; it could be for good luck, health, wealth, fertility, long life, etc. The supermarkets and department stores were closed, but it didn't matter to the two girls, they can still shop - in the back of the stores.

They were at the back of a Takashimaya store in Shinjuku Times Square looking through the trash to find any good osechi-ryori packets.

"I love eating osechi during the New Year holiday," Himeko chirped.

"Well I don't, but it's the only food that lasts, perfect for our case since we don't have refrigerators. And unlike people who buy them for at least 2000 yen, we get them free, even if they're considered 'lower quality'."

"Yeah. How about that one over there?" Himeko pointed at a particular osechi-ryori.

Chikane took a look to see if it was still good. "Yep this one is perfect. It has sliced fishcake in it."

"For good luck?"

"If you believe in that type of stuff, yes. This is rather ironic, since we could use some of that."

Himeko giggled, "I think we're fine now."

While they were searching, Kazuki was nearby, heading to a convenient store to get some ice. He suddenly noticed them and watched them going through the trash. Something inside of him found it very disturbing as he watched them scavenging through the garbage. They never noticed him.

He thought to himself how terrible it was. "Oh my, look at these young girls. They have to go through trash just to find food. They shouldn't be on the streets; they should be at a home going to school just like normal teenagers. I can't let them waste their life on the street when they have so much potential. I have got to help them out. After all, they've done a lot for me."

He went on to the convenient store, the image of them going through the trash burned in his mind. He couldn't erase it; he was starting to develop a guilty conscious about it. He deeply felt that he really hasn't helped them out enough. He felt that he should do something about it.

When they got to the temple, Kazuki immediately wanted to see them. "Kurusugawa-san and Himemiya-san, can I see you two for a minute?"

"Uh sure, did we do anything wrong?" Chikane asked.

"No, it's nothing like that, it's actually something else," he said as they followed him to a private area of the temple. When the got there, Kazuki said to them, "I'm very thankful for all the things you have done for us and for the temple, including this. I want to really make it up to you in a very big and special way?"

"How so?" Himeko asked.

"Well, I want you two to move in and stay at the temple."

Himeko and Chikane just looked at him like he was crazy, "Are you okay? Did you fall on your head earlier today?" Chikane asked.

Kazuki chuckled, not totally surprised at her response. "No, I'm okay. I know that this is rather unexpected, but I really do want you two to move in with me. So you two can have normal lives. Like go to school, eat home-cooked meals, or sleeping on a bed; things you don't have living in the streets. I really want you two to have normal teenager lives, not having to worry about everyday survival. Plus you could get hurt out there."

"Hey, I can take care of myself!" Chikane told him with a stern tone.

"I know that, but do you want to live like that every day? It's your choice. I can't force you to stay here; it's up for you two to decide."

Chikane thought about it a bit. She doesn't want to live like that for the rest of her life, but she knew that it was too good to be true, "What's the catch here?"

"Well you would help out with the temple, since I would like for you two to be my mikos. However, I will pay you two for your work as mikos, so don't worry about it. You will also have to do chores, but every teenager does that, or they should, so that's not much of a catch. The one thing is that I will train you two in fighting. Thought I don't think I need to do much with you Himemiya-san. You know about our problems with the black-masked group. They're still out there, so self-defense is vital. This is not the time to be weak, hence learning how to fight is essential, Kurusugawa-san," he said, singling out Himeko. Chikane nodded her head in approval.

"Actually Oogami-sensei, I've been training her for almost six months now. She's more capable than she appears, but it wouldn't hurt for her to have more training. Plus, I've heard about your sword skills and I would like to receive some training myself."

Kazuki smiled, "Of course, I'll be happy to train you." Chikane smiled in return. Kazuki continued, "Other than that, there really is no catch. You get free housing and your won't have to pay for school, food, cell phone, or utilities."

Chikane and Himeko thought about it for a minute. Chikane was the first to speak up, "So what do you think Himeko? It would be nice to no longer sleep on a cardboard box."

Himeko was hesitant a bit at first, because of the training part, but then she nodded. "I totally agree. I look forward to going back to school again."

Kazuki then smiled, "Well that settles it. The move will happen after the Hatsumodo. That will give you girls some time to get your stuff, if you have any, packed and for me to straighten up a room for you two. And I hope I don't have to sign a contract for this Himemiya-san?"

Chikane chucked, "No, none indeed."

"Good! Now that we agree on this, let's get to work. The crowd is starting to form."

Later on that day, Souma and Makoto wanted to visit their best friend Yukihito. While riding on his bike, Souma talked to Makoto about their situation.

"It's been a while since we've seen him." Souma said. "I can't understand why he would disappear on us like that."

"Yeah, for the past few months, he has been acting very strange," she replied, while clutching on to him as he speeds down the road.

"Yeah, and he has been hanging out with more of his so-called 'other' friends. I haven't been able to visit his home in like over four months."

"Have you met any one of them?"

"Nope, not one of them, and they don't' seem to be the positive type. One time when I ran into him, he was clearly drunk, even though he denies it."

"Oh." Makoto simply responded.

"Something's going on. I don't like it, and we need to talk to him about it."

Finally, they see the house down the street. As soon as they arrived in front of there, they stopped dead in their tracks, shocked. Yukihito's house appeared to be empty, and it had a 'For Sale' sign right on the lawn.

"Oh no..." Makoto responded.

Three days later after the hatsumode ended, Himeko was getting her stuff ready for the move. Nekoko was assisting.

"I'm glad that you finally got yourself a place to stay, but I'm going to miss having you around, nya!" Nekoko said.

"Don't worry, I'll come back to visit."

"I'm surprise that he only wanted you just to bring your artwork and not much of your clothes."

"Well he said that he was going to take us shopping today. I guess he didn't want us to wear our current clothes, since he thinks they're dirty. After all, he had us go to the clinic yesterday for examination."

"And how did that go?"

"It went well. The doctor said that were a bit dehydrated, but other than that, we were fine."

"That's good," Nekoko responded, as she finally got the last piece of Himeko's artwork packed.

Then Kazuki arrived with a minivan. Chikane was sitting in the passenger side.

Kazuki and Chikane walked up to the tent, "Hello, how's everybody doing?"

"Were fine Oogami-sensei. We're just about done getting everything together."

"That's great, so can I start loading your things?"

"Yep," Himeko replied, and she handed her first item to Kazuki.

While the two walked to the minivan, Nekoko had a word with Chikane, "Look Chikane-san, I know there's something going on with you and Himeko. If I could, I would put a Great Wall of China between you two, but I can't choose who she falls in love with. However, if you hurt her in anyway at all, I will hunt you down. Understand, nya?"

Chikane looked at her coldly and responded, "I love Himeko too much to ever hurt her, so you don't have to worry about that. What you have to worry about is me, kicking your butt for constantly getting on my nerves, like what you are doing right now," she hissed.

Nekoko started to boil up, "I'M NOT GETTING ON YOUR NERVES!"

"Yes you are," she coldly spat. And the two started to argue. By the time Himeko and Kazuki returned, they were in a full-blown argument. They tried to break it up.

"Okay enough you two!" Kazuki uncharacteristally shouted.

"Yes, stop fighting like cats and dogs. Uhh... No pun intended!" Himeko stated.

"No you're right Hime-chan, Chikane-san is a dog, nya!"

"Why you -" Chikane seethed but Kazuki and Himeko held her back before anything happens.

"Stop it! Just stop it! I'm borrowing that minvan, and I don't have much time to waste. So let's just get her stuff, okay?"

Both girls responded 'okay'. For the rest of the time, Chikane and Nekoko didn't say a word to each other while they were helping Himeko and Kazuki. When they finally got everything, Himeko gave Nekoko a goodbye hug and they went to Kazuki's place.

They finally arrived at his place. He showed them around a bit before they start moving in their stuff. His living quarters was right next to the temple. It was a modest house built for a family of four. Perfect for a new home for Himeko and Chikane. "Welcome to my place. It's not much but it's nice. My family has been living her for the last 15 generations."

Himeko was amazed, "Wow! That long? How does the house stay in good shape for so long?"

Kazuki chuckled, "Well it has not exactly look like this all these years. It has been renovated many times. The last time was when my father renovated it ten years ago, when he ran the temple. "

He headed them straight to their bedroom, "Well here's your sleeping quarters. I know it's not much but at least it has a bed, " he humored with his smile.

Himeko was gleaming nevertheless, happy that she finally got a stable place to stay. So was Chikane, who cracked a smile from her usual stoic look.

"You can go ahead and put away your belongings. The drawers are empty. Let me go ahead and get the rest of your stuff," he said as he left.

A few seconds later, Himeko hugged her and elated, "Wow Chikane-chan, we finally got a permanent place to stay!"

"We sure do," she simply answered as she hugged back.

"Don't you know how great this is? Finally, we get to do the things we really want to do. We can do each other's hair, go to the movies, go shopping, hang out at some mall, make each other's lunch, visit even more art museums, go to concerts..."

Himeko's childish, yet excited rambling gave Chikane some chuckles, "Himeko, Himeko, Himeko; I know you're happy to have a place to stay, but I don't think we can do all that!"

"Why not?" she asked liked a little child.

"Because all that requires money and time, and since we're going to start school soon, we might not have that."

Himeko thought it over, "But at least we can try to do some of those stuff," she delighted with a smile.

Chikane returned the smile back, "Yeah, you're right about that. After all, we only have one life to live." Chikane gave her a hug back and told her, "Thanks for being in my life."

"No, thank you for being in my life," she responded followed with a kiss on Chikane's cheek which caused Chikane to blush.

While they were hugging, Kazuki walked in and saw them hugging. It drew a small smile on his face. He tried to quietly put the rest of the stuff on the floor, but it creaked, breaking the girls loving embrace.

"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't want to interrupt you two."

"No problem Oogami-sensei," Chikane stated.

Kazuki thought it would be a perfect to time to bring up something. "I know that you two love each other very much. I also understand that you two may want to express it more intimately, but if you do then please don't do it too often and don't do it in the middle of the night. I need my sleep."

That caused an embarrassing blush on both girls' faces. "We not that far in our relationship to do stuff like that!" Himeko jokingly protested.

Now it was Kazuki's turn to feel embarrassed, "Ano... Then I dearly apologize for making that assumption."

"It's no big deal," Chikane shrugged.

Souma then walked in, "Here's the last of your stuff, Himeko-san."

"Thanks a lot Souma-san."

"No problem. Do you two need my help in putting away your things?"

"No thanks, we're fine." Chikane politely responded. He walked out of the room and they started to put away their stuff.

Just as they were getting done, Kazuki walked in, "It looks like you two are finished."

"Just about," Himeko replied as she put her last artwork on the top shelf in her closet. "Now I'm done. Oogami-sensei, why did you tell us to leave our clothes behind? We don't have anything else to wear besides what we got on our backs."

"Don't worry about that Kurusugawa-san. We will go shopping right soon."

Kazuki proceed to show them around the rest of the house. Besides Kazuki's bedroom, kitchen, and the bathroom section, the main part of the house was really one big area divided by fusumas, panels that partition the big area into smaller sections. "Here's our kitchen area. It's not really big, but it's functional." Then he walked a few steps to the dining room, a room with lots of decorative panels. One of the panels showed a decorative drawing of Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess, and Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, the moon god, facing away from each other. The two gods that the temple represents. Another one had three sacred objects of Shinto, the mirror, the sword, and the jewel. Himeko was admiring the artwork on the panels.

"It's beautiful, who are they?"

Kazuki was a bit surprised that Himeko didn't know who they were, but then he remembered that she was never fully exposed to Shinto.

"The one on the right is Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess, and the one of the left is Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoo, the moon god."

"Oh," she simply said. She was not familiar with them. That made Kazuki realize how much he has to teach her about Shinto. "And what is this panel with the sword, sword, and that funny looking thing.

He couldn't help but chuckle at her question. "That 'funny looking thing' is actually the Magatama, a sacred jewel. It represents benevolence.

"Benevolence?" she asked with a puzzled look.

"Yes, just like it is in your religion, it is very important to promote goodwill to others and to perform charitable causes to others."

"Oh ok. So what does the other two things mean?"

"The mirror represents wisdom, while the sword represents valor, or courage. See there's a lot of symbolism in Shinto, but I'll tell you another time."

Kazuki then continued the tour of his home. "And this is our dining room."

Himeko was amazed, "Wow, this is beautiful."

"Why thank you Kurusugawa-san. It was painted over three hundred years ago."


"Yes. From what I've heard, it was done by a family friend of ours. I really don't know his name."

Then he showed them the living room, "And here's our living room." It had an even better display of paintings and wall scrolls of various flowers, especially the Suikazura, or better know as the honeysuckle. It was a mixture of the old with traditional Japanese tatami floor mats, an alcove with historical Japanese artwork and flower arrangements; and the new with a stereo system, a DVD player, a Playstation 2, and a brand new flat-screen TV. He looked at the TV dismissively, "Somehow, Souma-kun talked me into it." The girls giggled.

Souma overheard the conversation, "Admit it nii-san, you would take this over some regular TV anytime!"

"You know I don't watch a lot of TV."

"But you sure do love your classic films."

Kazuki smirked a bit, "True, however I don't get to enjoy it. Most of the time you're using it to watch your soccer, wrestling, and tennis; and also to play your videogames."

Souma just smiled, felling a bit embarrassed. "That's also true."

The girls just chuckled, "Do you have any problems in me watching my anime on here?" Himeko asked.

"No, I shouldn't. That's if it's in good taste. None of that hentai stuff."

"Oh it won't be anything like that! It's on TV and it's called 'Battle Mikos'."

"Then it shouldn't be a problem," Kazuki replied nonchalantly.

"Thank you Oogami-sensei!" Himeko bowed in happiness.

"No problem. As long as it doesn't interfere with your schoolwork or any of your responsibilities."

While they were talking about various things, Makoto came over. "Hi everybody, including the new residents, how are you doing?"

"Fine," Chikane said, being a bit annoyed at her perkiness.

"Hi there Makoto-san, how are you doing?" Himeko cheerfully greeted.

"Fine, yourself? So you two are now living here, right?" she asked with her usual enthusiasm. The two girls nodded in agreement. "Cool! I hope you have everything you need?"

"Well, we need some new clothes," Himeko noted.

"But, that's not all you need," Makoto said.

"Huh? What else could we need?" Chikane questioned.

"Check the bathroom and you'll see," Makoto chimed.

The two went and looked in the bathroom. What they saw was nothing but men's stuff. They came back to Makoto and Chikane said, "I see what you mean..."

Kazuki and Souma understood as well, "Uh... The stores won't open until tomorrow. How about if you come shopping with us so that they can get the 'things' that they need?" Kazuki said with an embarrassed blush. Souma blushed as well.

Makoto laughed, "There's no need to feel awkward or ashamed about it. It's just a part of life for us girls. Besides, I would love to go shopping with them; I need some new stuff myself."

Kazuki smiled, "Well that's good, tomorrow we will go shopping. As for now, let's eat some food. It's the last day of the holiday and we do have some remaining osechi packets to finish off." Everybody agreed and they went to get the food.

For the time during their meal, they talked about various light-hearted subjects such as the latest fashion, baseball, cute animals, Souma's latest tennis accomplishments, and other things. Kazuki listened and didn't say much, true to his nature.

After their meal, Kazuki had a serious discussion with them.

"As you two know, you will be helping me run the shrine. There's a lot needed to be done here. Dating back to many generations, the shrine always had two mikos. One that represents the sun and the other that represents the moon. Kurusugawa-san, I'm making you the Sun miko and Himemiya-san, I'm making you the Moon miko. Plus I will be training you two will in sword combat, starting tomorrow. I will be trying to get you two into a school, so be prepared for that as well. Do you two understand?"

Himeko nodded nervously, while Chikane nodded confidently. Both were nervous of all the responsibilities, it was just that Chikane did a better job of hiding it.

"Can we get them to try out for our school?" Makoto asked.

"That was the first place I was going to try anyways. I need to visit the principal for various reasons," he said, since he knew about their situation.


"We'll talk about it privately," he said to Himeko and Chikane, as he got up to go to his room.

The next day, Himeko and Chikane went shopping with Kazuki and Makoto. They visited a few stores in the Shibuya area, getting enough clothes to last them for a few weeks. This was all new to Kazuki. He never really dealt with teenage girls like this before, even those who worked for him as mikos. He thought that it would be for only at most two hours, but the shopping took almost an entire day! Until then, he never knew how much time and effort women put into their shopping.

Makoto joined even though they really didn't need her, but she wanted to get some stuff herself. He also got some 'feminine products' for them.

Finally they got back home. Everyone was exhausted, especially Kazuki. He quickly went to the living room and dropped on the futon.

"Oh my, I've never went shopping for that long."

"Don't worry about it. For now on we'll do our own shopping. I notice that you're not into it," Himeko said.

"No, it's not my thing. Now I know what the other half does in shopping," he sighed.

They just chuckled, "That's only the tip of the iceberg Oogami-sensei," Chikane joked.

"I can't imagine that," he said while shaking his head in disbelief.

"Did you say that you wanted to talk to us about school after we got back home?" Himeko questioned.

"Yes, I do. Please sit down," he gently commanded and the girls sat on the futon while he got up and sat on his chair. He looked directly to the two girls and he explained his plan, "As young women, you need to go to school so that you can make something of yourself. I know that Hanayaka School is the perfect one for both of you. Of course you might not be good enough to make it in, though I seriously doubt it. However, the bigger issue is that both of you are runaways. "

Himeko swallowed her throat when she heard that. Chikane didn't, but inside she was seriously panicking.

Kazuki continued. "They're going to need to get your school records before they can do any transferring," he informed.

Nervously, Himeko spoke up, "Maybe it's not a good idea to go to school after all." Chikane shook her head in agreement as they were about to walk away.

Kazuki saw her fear and stopped them, "I know a few people in the Tokyo school board and they will do their best to make sure that the transfer won't be noticed. Plus, I know the principal as well. He'll do his best to make sure that you stay there."

Himeko and Chikane read through his vague response, they suspected that he knew more than he was letting on. Himeko then asked, "So you know? Know about our situation?"

Kazuki looked at her, amazed at her perceptiveness. Knowing it wouldn't do him any good to lie, he simply told her, "Yes I do. I know about your abusive relatives, and I have contacted your art teacher. She very much approves having you go to Hanayaka." Himeko smiled a bit, and then gave him a thankful hug.

"Thanks a lot Oogami-sensei!" Himeko said as she started to cry a bit.

"No problem Kurusugawa-san," he reassured as he hugged her back. "No need to worry, you will be safe here." After they finished hugging, Kazuki then turned his focus to Chikane.

"I also know about what you went through in the orphanage back at Mahoroba. I had a friend from New Zealand who used to work there."

Chikane's eyes lit up when she heard that, "You mean Sister McGlade? You know her?"

"Yes I do. She used to work at the church a few blocks from here. She used to help us with the food and clothing drive. This was before she was transferred to that orphanage in Mahoroba. I talked to her a few days ago, and she told me what happened. I'm really sorry Himemiya-san." However, he only told her half of the truth. He also got some of his information from Sister Miyako, and he also knew that she running away from her.

"It's okay, it's been a while," she said as she downplayed the event.

"No. It's not okay; you lost a friend of yours because of it."

"I know that," she said, feeling uneasy talking about it. "But I got to move on, that what she wanted me to do. Plus, I'm a runaway; I can't do anything against them. Trust me, there are plenty of people who want them in jail and out of business, but none have succeeded due to their strong political connections."

Kazuki saw her point, but suggested something else, "I understand, but you can't give up."

"What am I suppose to do, protest about it? I can't, unless I want to get myself arrested."

"You don't have to do it now, but perhaps in the near future. They'll be many more like you if they are not stopped and held accountable for their actions."

Chikane closed her eyes and nodded her head in agreement, "I know that very well Oogami-sensei."

Kazuki gently laid his hand on one of shoulders, and she winced a bit. It was still hurting from the knife incident. "See this is why I want you two to stay with me, so that this probably won't happen to you ever again. Now go ahead and try on those clothes. I want to know if I have to take them back."

Himeko and Chikane smiled, and quickly ran to the room with their new clothes.

The next day Kazuki put them to work on the shrine. He showed them the daily functions of maintaining the shrine, which includes cleaning the shrine, assist visitors, and daily rituals. He made sure that they weren't anything to compromise Himeko's religious beliefs. He gave them the task of running the information desk. He found them ideal for the job because of Himeko's natural gentleness to people, and Chikane's ability to speak fluent English.

It was ten in the morning, and they finished their shrine chores. They met Kazuki at the middle of the shrine. He got someone to volunteer to watch the shrine for him.

"Now that you two are finished with your chores, we can now begin the training."

"What are we going to do Oogami-sensei?" Himeko asked.

"We are going to learn some sword combat."

When she heard that, Himeko was a bit scared. "Really?" she asked.

Kazuki saw the fear in her eyes, and just chuckled. "Don't worry. We won't work with swords at first. And even when we get to that point, it wouldn't be very sharp."

Chikane explained a bit more to Himeko. "Most likely, we will be using shinai in the beginning. Also we will wear some protective gear."

"True indeed." Kazuki responded. "I already got some gear for you two, plus I have two kendo shinai. Himemiya-san, do you have experience in sword fighting?"

"A little bit. I'm more handy with a tanto than with a katana."

"Well it is a bit different than using a tanto. There won't be much thrusting in the beginning, since it can be very dangerous. Striking is more important now, which you don't do a lot with a tanto."

Chikane nodded in agreement. "I see."

"Well let's get started. I got the gear and the shinai for you two right there." He pointed to a spot where the weapons and gear were lying. Himeko and Chikane went and got the items.

"Does it matter who wears what?" Himeko asked.

"Not at all. Both head gear and body armor are basically the same size. I will have them tailored to fit you girls later on this week."

So they both suited up and got their shinai.

For the next hour, Kazuki trained them in the basics of kendo and the mechanism of using the shinai. It was nothing spectacular; as Kazuki had them repeatedly do the movements, so that the mechanism became second nature to them. Chikane was doing fine, but Himeko was struggling.

"That's not how you plant your feet Kurusugawa-san."

"Sorry Oogami-sensei."

"You got to have your legs tense when you are about to strike, so you can have more power when you are attacking."

Himeko nodded in agreement, "Understood sensei."

"Good, let's try that again."

Another hour passed, and both were sore. They wanted to take a rest, but Kazuki had other ideas.

"Now you need to take a shower, and get back to working at the front desk."

"But we just finished our training, can you give us some time to relax? I mean it's lunch time right now." Himeko begged.

"No. We got work to do. This is the time that a lot of visitors come, during their lunch break. You'll have your lunch break at two at the earliest."

Chikane and Himeko sighed in disbelief, but did as they were told. They took a quick shower and then returned to work the front desk and various parts of the shrine. It wasn't until six pm that Kazuki told them to stop working.

"Let's start closing up. It's dinner time now."

They were happy that it was finally over. Kazuki went on to show them how to close up the shrine. It was rather tedious, but a necessary part of their work as they put away a lot of the items in the room.

After that, they finally got to eat. Souma was there as well.

"So how was your day girls?" Souma asked as he was about to take a bite of his okonamayaki.

"Tiring!" Himeko said.

Souma just giggled. "Ha ha ha! Welcome to the Oogami household. If there's one thing you will be doing here, it would be work." Kazuki didn't say anything, he just continued on with his eating. "You'll get used to it."

"I hope so. I hope I don't die of exhaustion!"

"You won't Hime-san. We're not THAT unreasonable," Souma joked.

Kazuki finally spoke. "But through hard work you build discipline and character. Without either, you won't survive in life."

Chikane nodded, but she had an important question. "But when we start school, how are we going to do all this?"

"You will find ways to do it. I will cut down on your time tending the shrine and kendo practice, but I will never cut it out entirely. You will be doing your job and your practice at least four times a week. And as long as you are staying here, you will do all your homework and study for all your exams. If I have to tutor you, I will do so. If you have to go to cram school, you will have to do that."

Chikane simply nodded while Himeko was very nervous. Besides Arts and to a certain extent, English, she was not an academically good student.

"O-o-okay," she responded. Kazuki also knew how bad her grades were, so he told her. "Look, I will help you out as much as I can okay."

"Okay... I hope I can do better." she said unconvincingly.

"You WILL do better. Hope is not a strong word."

"I see Oogami-sensei. I don't want to disappoint you, like I have disappointed my relative." Immediately, tears came down her cheeks and she started to cry. Those painful years of living with her relatives were coming back. Those beatings she got because of her bad grades were still fresh in her mind. Chikane and Kazuki had an idea of what was going on, but Souma didn't really know what to make of it.

"What's wrong with you?" He asked. Himeko didn't say anything, but she quickly ran into her bedroom. Kazuki and Chikane were silent a bit while Souma had a puzzled look on his face. "What was that all about?" he inquired.

"I'll tell you later." Kazuki replied. He and Chikane got up and walked to the bedroom. When Chikane opened the door, they saw Himeko in the dark, lying on her bed crying on the pillow. Chikane was trying not to cry herself, seeing her lover hurting inside.

"Do you want me to leave?" Kazuki asked.

"No, I think I will need you."

They slowly approached Himeko, who was unaware that they were in the room. Chikane sat on the middle end of the bed while Kazuki remained standing. She then softly brushed her hair in reassurance.

"Himeko, can we talk to you?" Chikane said softly.

Himeko finally took her head off the pillow and looked at her lover. Her face was drenched and her cheeks were fully flushed. She didn't say anything while she was sniffling.

Kazuki took it as a yes as he started to speak. "You shouldn't be afraid of me Kurusugawa-san, I will not do what your aunt and uncle did to you. All I want from you is your gambaru. The past does not make the future. Things will be different here than back at Mahoroba."

Chikane filled in. "Besides, you never disappointed your relatives, even if they told you so. They were trying to make you something that you weren't. If anything, they have disappointed you, by not taking care of you the way they should. Plus they put unrealistic expectations on you."

"But what if it isn't good enough?" Himeko sobbed.

"Kurusugawa-san, what's more important is the fact that you are trying. Even if you give it 100%, there's no guarentee that you will get 100% back. But there is a guarantee that if you only give 0%, you will only get 0%. Nothing is perfect, and nobody is perfect. I might seem unreasonable, but I don't expect perfection from you. However, I do want you to be the best that you can be. I, or anybody else, should not expect less than that. Do you understand?"

Himeko dried her eyes with the sheets. "I understand." she replied softly.

"Now just dry your face off and come back to finish your dinner. Don't worry, things are different here," he said while keeping his stoic expression. He walked out of the room. As soon as he left, Chikane spoke to her.

"Look, we both came from rough beginnings and we still have scars from it, but this is our chance to make anew. We don't have to live in our past anymore, and we don't have to let our past dictate our future. We don't have to worry about our guardians or about being homeless anymore. We got a new beginning ahead of us and this is our chance to make something out of it."

"I don't know. It might turn out to be the same." Himeko lamented.

"Only if you let it. This is a different environment and we're living with different people. Chances are it won't be the same. Oogami-sensei believes in you. I believe in you. Souma-san believes in you. The only person who doesn't believe in you is the one who matters the most, yourself. You got to believe in yourself Himeko." She ended with a touch of concern in her voice. Himeko just looked at her lover and didn't say anything, but her eyes were asking for reassurance. Chikane added, "No matter what happens, whether success or failure, I'll always be there for you."

A tear came down from her right eye. "Seriously?"

"Yes, really." Chikane smiled.

Himeko saw the honesty in her face, and then she smiled. She then gave her partner a hug, and Chikane responded back with a kiss on the forehead.

"There's nothing to worry, I'll always be there for you," Chikane assured while she was hugging her.

After they finished their hug, Chikane told her, "Come on, let's finish our food. I'm kind of starving."

"Okay," Himeko giggled and they returned back to the dining room.

Almost a week later, thanks to a lot of delicate string pulling by Kazuki and the Sumida Board of Education, he was able to get them a placement test without having to officially notify their guardians. It was indeed the Hanayaka School that Souma and Makoto attended. Located in the Sumida ward, the prestigious private school was highly respected for its arts and athletics. Many students who wish to become artists, musicians, actors, or athletes apply, but only an extremely talented or well-connected few ever get in. Kazuki was very certain that Himeko and Chikane had a chance of gaining admittance, since both were very talented in art and music respectively. There was however a lingering concern he had about Himeko's other grades.

Kazuki arrived with them at the school and went into the office building.

"Hi, I came to see ÒWakayabashi-sensei for the placement test of these two ladies." He said to the administrative assistant.

"Oh yes. I see that you're fifteen minutes early. I'll get him to come over." She called him and he came out of his office.

"Oogami-sensei, it's nice to see you again!" He said as he bowed.

"It's nice to meet you again as well." He replied as he bowed back.

"So are these the young ladies that you want to attend our school?"

"Yes, I think they have the skills to do well here."

"Oh I see. So which one of you is the 'little Hokusai'?"

Kazuki pointed to Himeko. She bashfully blushed when she heard that. "I'm not that good!"

"Don't be so modest. I'm sure you are. And you must be the musical one?" He said looking at Chikane.

"Yes I am." Chikane bowed.

"Good, good. I got both of your tests ready. So come with me."

They walked about nearly half the distance of the school. The school was very clean and full of delicate yet bright colors. There were various paintings and drawings from past and present students hanging on the hallway's walls. Himeko and Chikane were impressed at what they saw. During their walk, the principal was giving them a short tour of the place.

"This here is the auditorium where we have our events, concerts, and plays."

"You guys have concerts and plays?" Chikane asked.

"Yes we do. We do have performances, whether it's musical or theatrical, to the public."

"That's great!" Himeko enthused. "How about art shows?"

"Oh yes, we usually have one around March and September, when Spring and Autumn arrive respectively."

Himeko smiled, "That's wonderful!"

"It really is, and I hope that you can be a part of it."

Finally they arrived at the classroom where they will take the test.

"Okay, this is where you two will have your exam. One of our teachers is in there. She will provide you more details on how to take the exam." He opened the door for the girls. As they walked in, he said to them. "Good luck and do the best that you can."

The girls took their seats and the principal left. The teacher then spoke.

"Welcome to Hanyaka Secondary School. I am Otahari-sensei, and I am here to supervise your entrance exam. We are thankful that you two chose to apply for Hanayaka. As you know Hanayaka is the most prestigious Arts and Music secondary school in Tokyo, and one of the most prestigious in Japan. Because of our distinguished reputation, we can only select those that we feel meet our standards. This entrance exam you are taking will determine that. For the exam, there will be two parts: the first is the written part, where you will be tested on your regular scholastic skills such as math, reading, and writing. The second is the activity part. This is to test your major at this school, whether it's arts, music, dancing, drama, whatever. Since you two are here for two different majors, both of you will have to go to separate rooms for the activity part. Do you have any questions so far?"

Both girls shook their heads 'no', so the teacher continued.

"Okay, now which one of you is Kurusugawa-san?"

"I am," Himeko said raising her hand a bit timidly. She was very nervous about the test.

"Okay, and you must be Himemiya-san?" She said pointing to Chikane.

"Hai Otahari-san." Chikane responded confidently.

"Good. We will start with the written exam. There are four parts of the written exam: Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and History. Each part will be an hour long. Now we will begin with the Reading section. There are some multiple choices, some fill-in-the-blanks, and some requiring essays. If you have any questions, feel free to raise your hand so I can come over and assist you if I can. Any questions so far?

Both shaking again 'no'.

"Good," she said as she got up and handed out the papers. "Now go ahead and write your name and date on top, but don't get started until I tell you so." She waited until the girls finished writing their names on top. "Okay, you can begin now, and good luck."

And so the two girls looked over the first question and answered it to the best of their ability. Thus this was the beginning of their new life at Hanayaka.

Chapter 16

Title: Life as Usual

For the next four hours, they were in the room taking the written part of the test. The test was quite a challenge for there were no multiple choice sections, and there were a lot of essay-like questions; except for the math section. Chikane was even stumped in a few areas, but she was able to answer most of them confidently. For Himeko however, it was total hell. She was struggling to even answer some of the fill-in-the-blanks. On some parts, she didn't even bother to write anything.

When the written exam was over, both girls gave a sigh of relief that it was done. They had a one hour lunch break before they started their specialized test. As they were munching on their bento, they finally had a chance to chat.

"That test was tough!" Himeko exclaimed before she took a bite of her edamame.

Chikane nodded and replied, "It wasn't as easy as I thought. The history section gave me some trouble."

"Yeah, that was tough as well. I hope the next part is easier."

"I hope so too," Chikane responded as she sipped on her miso soup.

After they finished their lunch, they had fifteen minutes to spare. Himeko decided to do what she loves the most - draw. She was drawing a flower she saw outside. While she was drawing, Chikane peeked over her shoulder.

"Keeping yourself busy?" she asked.

"Yes. I just saw a pretty flower outside, and it hasn’t left my mind or escaped my attention."

"I see. Are flowers one of your favorite subjects?"

"They are. I like anything related to nature. I feel that nature is a great example of God's work, and it’s also a way to get closer to Him."

"Oh," was all that Chikane said. The teacher came back in and said. "Okay, break time is over girls, now it’s time for the next part of the exam. Follow me."

The girls walked behind her to another room across the hallway. As she got to the door, she paused to put up paperwork and turned around. “Kurusugawa-san, this is where you will take the remainder of your test.”

“Hai Sensei.”

“There will be another instructor in there. He will guide you from this point on.” She then opened the door for Himeko. Himeko took a peek, and saw a few small blank canvases. “Good luck Kurusugawa-san.”

“Thank you.” She politely bowed, and entered in the room. As soon as she closed the door, the instructor looked at Chikane.

“Himemiya-san, your test will take place downstairs. Follow me.” Chikane, and the instructor went to the lower level. It looked like a music chamber. She opened the door and told her, “This is where you will take your test. Mrs. Ito will be your instructor from this point on. Good luck.”

“Thank you.” Chikane responded as she bowed and went into the room.


The next four hours were somewhat easier for the girls, as they were doing what they were more accustomed to, but it was by no means a walk in the park. Himeko was given difficult subjects to draw and color, and had to do it in various different mediums such as watercolor, oil painting, etc. Chikane was given difficult pieces to play, and she had to do it with at least five different instruments.

Four hours went by and they returned to the office, waiting for Kazuki. They were clearly tired from the test as neither said much. Several minutes later, he came and spoke to the principal.

“Well here they are Oogami-sensei. We’ll find out the results by tomorrow.”

Kazuki looked at them and saw how tired they were. He just had a small smile on his face as he asked them, “How was the exam?”

“Hard!” Himeko said while Chikane nodded.

Kazuki chuckled, and replied, “I told you it was not going to be easy. Anyways, I need to talk to Wakayabashi-san privately.”

So Kazuki went with the principal to his office.

“Thank you for putting your neck on the line for me on this. I don’t think I can ever repay you.”

“No need. You and your family did a lot for us. If it wasn’t for your father, I wouldn’t have gotten this job. Besides, I think those two have what it takes to be in this school.”

Kazuki grimaced a bit, thinking about Himeko. “Well I’m not really so sure about one of them.”

“Yes I know. From what I’ve seen from her old school, she’ll ace through the second part of the exam, but like you, I’m not so sure about the first part. It looks like I’ll have a meeting about her and if we do accept Kurusugawa-san, she will have to be on our learning track program.”

“I understand fully. I would like for her to attend school here, but I’ll leave it up to you and your faculty’s hands.”

“Very well. Like I said, you’ll find out tomorrow. Let me walk you and the girls out,” he said as he opened the door for Kazuki.

“Okay, that’s fine with me.”

When they were outside, Wakayabashi thanked them for coming. “I’m glad you two choose this school for your future education.”

“What do you think our chances of us making it?” Himeko asked.

The principal chuckled. “I really don’t want to answer that. I don’t want to give you two any false hopes. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t make it.”

“He’s right. We’ll think of something else if it doesn’t come through. Thanks for everything again, Wakayabashi-sensei. Until then have a nice day.” Kazuki ended.

“Good bye and have a nice day yourself.”

Himeko and Chikane both said their goodbye, and got in Kazuki’s Toyota. While they were in there, they were about to doze off but Kazuki broke it when he spoke.

“When you two get home, you will get two hours of sleep, but no more. After that, you will help out in the temple and continue with your training.

Both girls sigh after they hear that and go to sleep.


They finally got back to their place, and both girls went straight to their beds, taking their much-deserved nap.

Nearly two hours later, Chikane woke up, hearing Souma’s slippers shuffling on the floor. They left their door open so Chikane was able to see him. For three minutes, he just stood there, looking at the locked room’s door. Chikane also heard sniffles coming from Souma. Then he left.

This really got her curiosity going. She got up to confront him, but before she could Kazuki walked by.

“Ah, I see that you’re already up? That’s what I like about you Himemiya-san, you got discipline,” Kazuki smiled.

She yawned a bit as she stretched her arms. “Thanks,” she responded.

“Now can you wake up Kurusugawa-san, please?”

“Sure Oogami-sensei.”

He quietly left the doorway as Chikane shook her sleeping partner by her shoulders.

“Himeko, wake up! Wake up!”

“Wha… its past two hours already?” she yawned out.

“Yes it is. We need to get ourselves ready for our work.”

“Oh man…”

Groggy as a bear coming out of hibernation, Himeko got up and walked to the bathroom to rinse her mouth and wash her face. When she returned to her room, Chikane brought up what she had witnessed.

"Hey Himeko. Did you notice the room across the hall?"

"Yeah, what about it? Beside that we've never been in there."

"Well I saw Souma looking at that room like it reminded him of something. I think he was crying."

"Something sad or depressing must have happened." Himeko responded with concern. “I remember Makoto-chan mentioning that he had a brother he hasn’t seen for a while.”

Chikane’s interest peaked a bit when she responded. “Really?”

“That’s what she told me. She didn’t tell me anything else.”

“Oh.” Chikane said in her usual stoic manner.

Himeko also brought up something else. “You know what’s also weird?”

“What else?”

“That I don’t see any pictures of his brother around. I mean, even if someone is dead and they care about them very much, there would have pictures around the house, especially in the family shrine.”

Chikane rubbed the bottom of her chin, "Hmm… Something strange is going on here… Well we don’t have much time to think about it. Come on, let's go to work."

While they were at their daily chores, Chikane noticed that Himeko wasn’t being her usual lively and bubbly self. She figured that it was about the school exam.

“Still thinking about the exam?”

“Very much so. I don’t think they’ll take me in,” Himeko replied with melancholy dripping in her voice.

“Just don’t worry about it now. Whatever happens, happens. We can’t do much about it. I’ll still be there for you.”

Himeko smiled and warmly responded, “Thanks Chikane-chan.”

Then a visitor came up to her, “Can you show me where the haiden is?”

“Sure! Follow me.” Himeko said as she walked him to the worshipping hall.

The next morning was an eventful one for the staff members of Hanayaka, as they were seriously debating over the acceptance of one particular girl.

“She should not be accepted to this school. No way!” said one faculty member.

“Are you kidding? She’s a prodigy! I mean look at her work, it’s amazing!” replied the other faculty member, as he pulled out Kurusugawa-san’s artwork from the test. Himeko’s paintings, drawings, and even her clay sculpture passed the test with flying colors, but her written exam was an epic failure.

“But she flat out failed math! Her mathematic skills are horrendous!” protested one teacher.

“And her history is just as terrible! She couldn’t even point out when the Meiji Restoration period started!” exclaimed another teacher. “The only subject she did okay in was in English.”

Another teacher calmly stated, “I think she will make a great addition to this school.”

“Are you kidding me?! Allowing her in will be a slap on the face of all those who were just as artistically talented, but couldn’t get in. It will also be a slap on the face of our proud tradition as well. Quite a few of them did better in the written exam.”

The other teacher looked at him, “Not every day can you find someone who can draw like this!”

The headmaster intervened, seeing how ugly it was getting. “Well why don’t we put her on our learning track program? I think she will do whatever it takes to succeed here. And I think her friend Himemiya-san will help her out as much as she can.”

“I doubt even as gifted as Himemiya-san is she will be able to help her. I don’t see why she should. She aced her exams unlike her friend. She has the potential to be a kaichou in this school, why should she waste her time and energy on someone like her?” scoffed another teacher.

“She’s her friend from what I’ve heard, why should she not help her?” another teacher responded to his insensitivity.

This was going back and forth with no end at sight. So Wakayabashi finally put his foot down and shouted. “Okay enough!”

Immediately everybody went silent. He then cleared his throat and continued. “I understand that this is a controversial decision, but I think she’s got great potential here in this school. I will put this into a vote right now.” He wasted no time as he looked throughout the room. “Ok, how many of you don’t want her here?” Out of the 50 staff members, 24 had raised their hands. “And how many of you want her here?” The remaining 26 raised their hands up. Wakayabashi then had a smile.

“Alright, then it settled. Kurusugawa Himeko will be attending Hanayaka High School.”

A few of the teachers were happy as well. They looked forward to meeting and teaching the young artistic prodigy, while the others were seething.


The next day while Kazuki was in his office, he received a call on his cell. It displayed ‘Wakayabashi-sensei’ on it. He knew it had to be about the exam.

“Moshi-moshi Oogami-sensei.”

“Moshi-moshi Wakayabashi-sensei. How are you doing?

“I am doing fine. How about you?”

“I am fine as well. So? How did the exam go for the two?”

The headmaster had a hard time answering his question, so he decided to start with Chikane’s. “Well Himemiya-san’s score was excellent. She did very well in the written and even better in the musical. We noticed that she can play at least six different instruments at an intermediate level and four more at an advance level, including the piano. She has great potential in this school. In fact, I think she would be a great addition to the student council.”

“Well that’s great to hear.” Kazuki was pleased to hear the good news. “But what about Kurusugawa-san?”

Wakayabashi didn’t say anything for a bit as he swallowed his lump in his throat. “Well she did excellent in her artistic section of the exam, but she failed miserably in the written part. There was a debate about it in the lounge to whether accept her or not, and thankfully she got in. However, she will have to be in our learning track program for students like her. The program will help her out as much as they can, but it will be up to her to succeed in this school. There really is no other way around it. After all, she is academically the worst student we have accepted for this school year, possibly the worst ever.”

This was no surprise to Kazuki, yet he felt a bit disappointed. “I understand clearly, and if that’s what you think is the best option for her, then go ahead and put her in the program.”

“Will certainly do. We would like to start them next Monday if that is possible. Since it will be in the middle of the final semester for the school year and as a friend of yours, I won’t charge you until the beginning of the next school year. I will have both of the girls in the first year.”

Kazuki smiled again. He loves to save money as much as he can. “That’s good. I’ll pass the information to the girls, and we’ll be there tomorrow to get their uniforms and supplies.”

“Sounds good. Take care, and tell the girls congratulations.”

“Will do. Thank you very much. I greatly appreciate it.

“That sounds great! Thank a lot old friend! Talk to you later”

“No problem, talk to you later. Next time we meet, I will bring some prayer strips, some incense and one of our ornaments. Again, thank you and good bye.” Kazuki ended. A smile came on his face as he went to deliver the good news.


While Himeko and Chikane were working at the Information Desk, Kazuki came up to them.

“I got the call back from the headmaster.”

Both quickly jumped out of their seats and huddled near Kazuki.

“Really? What did he say?” Himeko asked like an anxious child.

“He said that you are both accepted into the school.”

Both girls excitedly cheered when they heard the good news. However, Kazuki wasn’t done yet.

“Himemiya-san, they were very impressed with your scores on both parts of the exams and would love to have you in their school.”

A genuine smile came upon her face. “Thanks Oogami-sensei.”

“You’re welcome. As for Himeko…”


Kazuki took a short breath before continuing. “You did exceptionally well on the artistic part of the test. In fact, they said you pretty much did 100% on it.”

Himeko grinned, “That’s great!”

“However, your written exam was the exact opposite. You did very poorly on it. They are suggesting you should be on their learning track program to help you reach the basic standard and also to help you reach your highest potential.”

Himeko didn’t like the sound of that. She was in a similar program at the other school she attended. It was a humiliating experience for her, she was teased quite often about it. In a country that put a heavy emphasis and pride on education, the humiliation is even more pronounced.

However, she hid her fear and shame when she responded, “Okay.”

“Like I’ve said, you will get help. We won’t let you fail at all. Right Himemiya-san?”


Himeko wasn’t so sure, but she simply agreed, “Okay.”

The first day began and unlike earlier, Himeko was very excited about the school. They took the train to the school and walked the remainder of the way, two blocks further.

As they got into the building, the headmaster personally greeted them.

“Hello you two lovely ladies, welcome to your first day here!”

“Thank you!” they both bowed respectfully.

“You’re welcome. We have your classes ready. Chikane
your first class is downstairs, while Himeko, your class is down the hall. As you probably know already, our school setup is like that of those in the West. That means that instead of the teachers coming to the classroom, you girls will have to go to various classrooms. The reason for that is that we’re an Arts, Athletic, and Humanities school, and we have a lot of specialized classes that require their own rooms. Plus we also have a lot of Western students as well.

That means if you are familiar with Western High Schools, you will have lockers to put your books and stuff in. Come and let me show you two your shoe cubbies, then I’ll show you your regular lockers for books and other items.”

The headmaster showed them their shoe cubbies, which were only a few feet away. They had their indoor shoe with them so the headmaster suggested switching to those shoes.

“Go ahead and change, this is your school. Remember your numbers girls. Kurusugawa-san, yours is 438, Himemiya-san, yours is 439.”

“Hai sir!” both girls replied with a bow and then they proceed to take off their shoes.

They walked near to the end of the hallway to get to their lockers. When he got there he showed them their lockers. The lockers were blue and it seemed to be freshly painted. They were six feet tall.
Wakayabashi then gave them each a piece of paper. It was their locker combination.

“Here you go. Don’t lose them.”

“Thanks,” Himeko replied followed with a bow.

“No problem. Do you girls have your class schedules?”

“Yes Wakayabashi-sensei,” Himeko responded.

“Good. Then put away anything you don’t need in the locker and head to your homerooms, which will be your first class.”

Both nodded and they put their stuff in their respective lockers. Then they went to their classrooms and thus began their first day of school.

The first class for Himeko was down the hall from the lockers. When she got there she got nervous because she knew nobody in the classroom. The teacher saw her uneasiness, and stopped the class.

“Class, this is a new student joining us today. Her name is Kurusugawa Himeko.”

The entire class said ‘hi’ to her, and she responded back with a soft and shy ‘hi’. However, she was able to see a familiar face in the back.


“Hey there, glad to see you.”

"Same here," Himeko replied as she took a set at the desk next to Makoto's. "I thought I wasn’t going to know anyone in here."

Makoto chuckled, "Don't worry about it. People here are cool."

"So why do we come here first?"

"Oh, every day we always come here as the first class. They call it homeroom, but unlike where you might have gone before, we don’t stay here very long. It's no more than fifteen minutes so that we can hear announcements and whatnot. Then we go to our scheduled classes. They seem to have adopted the Western style of school, so we don't stay in the same classroom. Each of us follows a certain track. I assume you're in the Arts track."

Himeko nodded, "Yep."

"I'm in the Physical Education track, so I study stuff like Sports Medicine and whatnot."

"Oh I see."

"Don't worry, you'll get used to it."

Then the teacher interrupted, "Satohara-san, I'm glad that you're helping out Kurusugawa-san, but I need to read the announcements."

"Oh sorry Daikane-sensei."

"Thank you, now let's continue on..."

The school program is broken up into two days: an A day and a B day. Today was a B day, so for Himeko, she had Clay Pottery, Art History, Elementary Math, Biology, Painting Techniques, and Physical Ed, her least favorite class, with lunch in the Homeroom in between.

The classes were over an hour-and-a-half long, which was fine for classes like Clay Pottery, but not so for Math. It was one of her least favorite subjects.
When it was lunch time, Himeko met up with Makoto.

"Hey there! How was your day?"

"I'm glad that Math is over."
Makoto laughed, "Try Physics! Blah!" she said while making a nasty face.

"Oh my, I don't think I could ever do that."

"Well, it could be worse. Anyhow, I would like for you to meet my friends at their homeroom if you don't mind."

"Of course not." Himeko smiled. So they took their food to the homeroom across the hallway and met up with Makoto's friends.

"Hi Makoto, who's this with you?"

"This is Kurusugawa Himko, she's from Mahoroba."

"Hi there, my name is Rabinovich Yelena, and I'm from Russia." she bowed. Himeko bowed back.

"And I'm Shajino Fumiko, nice to meet you", she said with a half bow. She couldn't bow fully because she was confined to a wheelchair.

“So where should we eat?” Himeko asked.

“Here should be fine.” They grouped their desks together and started to eat their bento.
About five minutes later, and blue-hair girl came up to Himeko.

“Is there a seat for me?”

“Chikane-chan!” Himeko got up and hugged her partner who was still holding the bento box. She smiled back and sat down with the other girls.

“So how’s your day going?”

“Fine. Math is… Math, but Clay Pottery and Art History are great!”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

“So what are your classes?”

“Today, I have Music Composition III, Calculus II, Advanced Music Theory, Advanced Physics, Advanced English Literature, and Studio Production I.”

The other four were amazed at Chikane’s schedule.

“Wow! You must be really smart.” Yelena said.

Chikane shrugged her shoulders, “Not really.”

“Oh I forgot to introduce you to Rabinovich Yelena, and Shajino Fumiko. This is Himemiya Chikane.”

“Himeko’s girlfriend!” Makoto blurted out. Himeko and Chikane’s eyes jumped when she revealed them to be lovers.

“Makoto-san!” Chikane yelped.

Makoto and the girls just laughed, “It’s okay, it doesn’t bother us that you two are girlfriends. It’s very liberal around here, in fact, we have pride week here every year! We just had one last October.”

That surprised Chikane and Himeko, who were used to the conservative school environments back in Mahoroba. If they let anybody knew that they were a couple, they would get harassed from other students in the school.

“Oh… Thanks.” Himeko said rather uneasily. She didn’t know what to make of this, and whether or not Makoto knew about their previous background. Souma then came in and joined his girlfriend.

“Hey girls what’s up!? I see you got Himemiya-san and Kurusuga-san here.”

“It’s okay to call us Himeko-san and Chikane-san in front of them. I never really cared much about honorifics.” Chikane advised him while Himeko nodded.

“Cool,” he responded and he sat next to Makoto. “So how are you two doing?”

“Fine Souma-san. The whole moving around to different classrooms is so unusual, but I guess we’ll get used to it.” Himeko responded.

Souma chuckled, “Yeah you will. Anyhow, I want to invite you and Chikane to join our Kendo club. I’m the President and we would like for you to join us. It could help you two when Nii-san is training you.”

Himeko was a bit hesitant, “Um… Thanks but I’ll pass.”

“I’ll join,” Chikane said calmly.

Souma smiled, “Great! I think you will be a big contributor to our club.”

Chikane had a small smile, “Thanks. Looking forward to it.”

“Um, would you also like to join the Sports Club as well? I think you will enjoy it as well.”

Chikane shrugged, “Sure why not?”

“Great! Me and Makoto-chan are in it as well.”

Yelena then joined in the conversation. “Does any one of you want to join the Art club.”

“I do!” Himeko said excitedly.

“Great, I’ll get you signed up. How about you Chikane-san?”

“Nah, art is not my specialty, Music is. So if there is one, I’ll join.”

“There is one, and I’ll introduce you to the guy who runs it,” Souma informed Chikane.

“Great, thanks!”

“No problem!”


For a few weeks, both of them took some time to adjust to life in school again. After all, Himeko was away for six months and Chikane’s been away for over a year. They also had to adjust to the Western style of schooling, with the constant moving from one class to another. However they found the opportunity to join a few clubs. Himeko also found time to join the Gardening club as well.
One day, Himeko spotted Kazuki doing one of his prayers. It was the Oracle of the Kami of Sumiyoshi, better known as the Prayer of Benevolence.

“I have no corporeal existence, but Universal Benevolence is my divine body.
I have no physical power, but Uprightness is my strength.
I have no religious clairvoyance beyond what is bestowed by Wisdom,
I have no power of miracle other than the attainment of quiet happiness,
I have no tact except the exercise of gentleness.”

She tried to quietly walk into the room, but Kazuki heard her and turned around.

“Hi there Kurusugawa-san, how can I help you?”

“Oh nothing, I was just wondering where you were.”

“Well you know where I’m at,” he chuckled.

“Yeah. What were you doing?”

“I was doing the Oracle of the Kami of Sumiyoshi?”


“You probably know it as the Prayer of Benevolence.”

“Oh yes, I’ve heard of that. How often do you do it?”

“Just about every day.”


“Yes,” he said as he turned around to face Himeko.

“Benevolence is very important to me. It helps bring balance to one’s self, and to the community. And when I mean community, I don’t mean in the general sense of the word?”

“Then what do you mean?”

“A community is more than just a group of people. A community could be your family, your friends, your club mates, you neighbors, your city, your country, even the entire world. I feel that we achieve greater things not only for the community but for ourselves when we put others before ourselves.”

“That’s exactly what Jesus did when he died on the cross. He sacrificed his life so that we can be saved.”

“Yes, I know the story. That’s the ultimate example of benevolence. I find that when we start doing things for others, we learn a little bit more about ourselves. Sometimes you see things about yourself that you wish you never did, but most of the time it reveals something positive. Benevolence is all about giving and sharing, and most of all, caring. Through these things, we began to grow. As we grow, we help others grow, and as they grow they help others grow as well. As you probably found out already, it can take you out of your comfort zone, but that’s how we become wiser, smarter, better, and that’s how our community grows as well. It’s how we can make a difference in other people’s lives and in our communities. That’s why I help the homeless as much as I do. I want them to have a better life, and I want my community to become stronger by helping out the weak. However none of this would matter if you didn’t care. Caring is what makes benevolence run.

It all made sense to Himeko. “I want to make things better for others, especially for those who have been abused and hurt like me and Chikane-chan,” she said while trying not to cry. “I want them to see that it’s not always going to be like that, that there is hope and that anything is possible.”

“Then you have to go out there and show them that there is hope. You got to share yourself and your story of how you made it. It’s through sharing your story, and how you were able to make it that one can give hope. As they say, caring is sharing. Speaking of sharing, I got something for you.” He went to his desk and got out an emerald green jadeite stone, shaped like a magatama.

“Oh wow, it’s the jewel of benevolence!” Himeko exclaimed.

“Yes. It helps to remind me of my purpose in life.”

“Thank you very much!” she said with a hug. It broke Kazuki’s stoic mold and he smiled.

“No problem. I know you have a lot to offer to the world. Don’t keep it to yourself, believe in yourself and share it with others.”

“I will Oogami-sensei, I will!”


For the past few weeks, nothing special happened for the girls, and they couldn’t be any more relieved. They were happy to be out of the streets, and instead living a normal life. Then one night, Chikane saw Souma walking out of the closed bedroom. Her curiosity got the best of her. She needed to see what was inside. She decided to wait until everybody was asleep.

During the middle of the night, when she knew that Himeko was asleep, Chikane got out of the bed.

Using her knowledge of lockpicking she acquired from the streets, she started to pick the door’s lock. It was a basic lock, so she was able to unlock it rather easily. As soon as she entered in the room, she turned on the lights. It was clearly a room for a male, with dark color designs and several other clues such as some mens clothing lying on the floor and several posters of knives, zombies, vampires, and women on the wall. He had the first generation Playstation with lots of fighting and horror-themed games. There were a set of knives on top of the dresser as well. There was also another thing on the dresser she noticed; it was a picture of the former occupant. What she saw both terrified and angered her as she saw a younger portrait of the teal-haired man that threw the knife at her. Also in the picture were a young Souma and Sister Miyako.

Chikane immediately steamed up, turned off the lights and left the room. When she got back to her room, she quickly got her bag and started to pack her clothes. She was trying to be quiet about it, but the dresser drawers were noisy enough for Himeko to wake up.

“What are you doing?” Himeko asked. “You need to go back to sleep.”

“The hell I’m not!”

Himeko rubbed her eyes, and got up. “What’s going on?” she asked.

Chikane stopped what she was doing and looked at Himeko. Not once did the disgust on her face leave.

“Follow me.”

So Himeko followed her to the room and she showed the picture. Himeko was shocked as well.

“Oh my God! I knew Souma reminded us of someone.”

“Yeah, and that nutcase can come back here any time. Then he might come and kill me! And if you have any brain cells in your head, you would join me as well.”

Brain cells or none, she was going to join her either way, as Himeko was devoted to Chikane, but Himeko wanted Chikane to reconsider.

“But Chikane-chan, he probably won’t come back.”

“I can’t take that chance.”

Kazuki and Souma heard the noise coming from the other room as Himeko and Chikane were still talking. They were surprised to see light coming from the doorway, so they quickly went over there.

“What is going on?” Kazuki demanded with Souma looking at her like she had entered into a forbidden area.

Chikane turned around to face him. “Explain this to me!” Chikane barked at Kazuki as she showed the portrait to Kazuki. He swallowed a lump in his throat when he saw it. The last thing he wanted to happen was for her to find out about it.

“So you know?”

“Hell yeah I know! Why didn’t you tell me about him! Why!?!” she yelled. “And it doesn’t make things any easier since that bitch Sister Miyako seems to be a part of this family!”

“Look Himemiya-san, I sorry that I didn’t tell you –“

“You’re sorry alright! You bastard! You lied to me the entire time!”

Souma then jumps in, “Stop it Chikane-san!”

“Why should I!?! So that your brother can come and kill me and Himeko?”

Souma roared out to Chikane, “My brother is not a murderer!”

“He nearly tried to kill me!” Chikane said as she showed the scar on her left shoulder. “A few more inches and it would have hit my heart, I would have been dead!”

Souma shouted back, “He would never try to kill you!”

“Well he did try to kill me and you’re too stupid to realize that!”

“You bitch!”

Souma rushed at her, and she hit the wall. Chikane pushed back with her legs and tackled him to the ground. There were tumbling and rumbling on the ground. Kazuki and Himeko were trying their best to pull the two off each other. It took about a good minute before they succeeded. However, another task was to keep them separated as they were trying to go after each other as soon as they got back up.

“I’m gonna kick your fucking ass Souma-san!”

“Chikane-chan, stop it! Stop it,” Himeko desperately pleaded as she was using every bit of strength in her soft body to stop her.

“I like to see you try bitch!” Souma replied back with his own fiery anger.

“Stop it Souma-kun!”

Kazuki knew he had a major crisis on his hands and he had to deal with it now.

Chapter 17

Title: Judgment Night

There was a rather big and bad battle going on between Chikane and Souma. Kazuki knew he was partially responsible for this, so he had to intervene quickly. While holding Souma back, Kazuki spoke with a commanding voice.

“That’s enough you two! Stop it right now!”

Both Souma and Chikane knew better than to mess with him, so they immediately stopped and gave a hard glare at him as he walked to the center of the floor, equal distance between the two. He took a deep breath and said, “Please let me explain everything, then when I’m done, you can talk.” They were still looking hard at him, as neither let their eyes off him, as well as Himeko.

“I apologize for not telling you about Tsubasa-san. I honestly swear that I thought what I did was best for you two girls. I didn’t want you to say no and return back to the streets.”

“You still shouldn’t have lied to us! That was like stabbing us in the back!” Chikane shouted back.

“I understand you anger, but -”

“But what!?! What!?!” To allow him to -”

“Let me speak!” he spat in a loud and commanding voice, looking coldly at Chikane. Chikane instantly became quiet as he continued. “Now, as I was about to state, I understand your anger, but I had no intentions to keep it a secret forever. I was planning to tell you two when I thought the time was right. Now I see that it was an error on my part. Tsubasa-san wasn’t always like this, he was normal, more or less, at one time. He had a bright future ahead of him. He was an honor student going to University of Tokyo, and had a girlfriend. But all that changed suddenly, when he acted differently. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, but he changed dramatically.

I had him check out at a hospital, and they said he became schizophrenic. They told me that he could cause a lot of trouble and he should be in an instintution. I didn’t want to do that, for I considered him as a brother, so I kept him at my place. We did the usual, checked up on him and kept him in medication, but I found out that it wasn’t enough.

It was like four months after the diagnosis that something serious happened. While one of my friends were staying over for the weekend, he came into the room. The guest was sleeping. Tsubasa was carrying a cord and tried to strangle him. Fortunately enough, my friend made a lot of noise during his struggle so I rushed to the room and punched him out. It felt terrible, like I was beating on my own brother, but I had to do it. After a few hits, he was knocked out unconscious. After that, I had no choice but to send him to the institution. I know Souma-kun hasn’t fully forgiven me for it, but as you can see, I had no choice. He was a risk to everyone.

“No he wasn’t!” Souma shouted.

“Yes he was!” Kazuki and Chikane shouted in unison. “Souma, I know you care for him a lot, but he’s not the brother you grew up with. He’s totally changed. Do you understand that?”

Souma thought about it for a bit, then he meekly responded, “Yes."

Chikane wasn't done yet. She had still more questions about one other person. “Okay, now that you told me about him, tell me about Sister Miyako.”

Kazuki sighed and then spoke, “Tsubasa-san and Sister Miyako were together since high school. They were very much high school sweethearts and were totally opposite, yet they both loved each other madly,” he smiled as he reminisced. “I don’t recall a time when those two had their difference, until he became sick. After the incident, she broke up with him.“

“Does she know that I’m here in Tokyo?”

“Yes, she does.”

Now Chikane was both nervous and furious as hell. “Do you realize what she could do to me? She could send me back to that hellhole!”

“Himemiya-san, she wouldn’t do such a thing.”

“Yes she would, she’s one of them!”

“It would be better that way…” Souma muttered. Chikane heard and tried to come after him, but Kazuki immediately grabbed her from behind and twist her right arm to her back.”

“Please Himemiya-san calm down,” he said while still holding her right arm behind her back.

She knew she had no choice, so she did as he ordered. Kazuki released her and signaled her to go back to her side. Kazuki came up to Souma and slapped him across the face. “Didn’t I tell you to shut up?”

“Yes, onii-san.”

“Okay then.” Then he returned back to his previous position and spoke calmly, “Let’s get some sleep, we got to get up early.”

Everybody left the room, not saying anything and headed to their rooms. No more than an hour later, while lying in the bed, Chikane had trouble sleeping, and Himeko noticed.

“Baby, you need to get some sleep.” Himeko worried while stroking her partner's hair.

“How can I get some sleep when that nut can come any time and attack us.”

“He won’t attack us, believe me. Please get some rest,” Himeko softly pleaded, following a light peck on her partner’s cheek. She then held her tight next to her, doing her best to comfort her girlfriend. She couldn’t bare watching Chikane being like this. Eventually, she fell asleep.


The next day, it was just like any morning, except that nobody was talking to anybody. As Chikane ate her food, she looked angrily at Souma. Souma in returned seethed at Chikane. Kazuki didn’t like the atmosphere one bit, but he knew he couldn’t do anything about it – for now. Himeko wasn’t liking this either, and when she had some time after breakfast, she had a talk with Kazuki.

“Oogami-sensei, we need to do something about this.”

“I totally agree Kurusugawa-san, but not now.”

“But it might get worse! I have a feeling that it will,” Himeko said. What she knew was that both Souma and Chikane were hard-edge people who were very stubborn, and she knew that was a recipe for disaster.

"Perhaps, but I've deal with worse. I'll take care of it if things don't calm down between the two."

"Please do so, I don't want anything happen to either of them."


Meanwhile, back at Himeko mother’s apartment. She was talking to her partner about her daughter.

“I placed a few ads on the paper, and tried to look for her on MySpace. She doesn’t have an account.”

“Have you tried to find that blue-haired girl as well?” said her partner.

“Yes I did. I couldn’t find anything about her as well.”

“Great… Well you might as well contact her aunt, as much as you don’t want to.”

“Yeah, perhaps.” So she went and called her on her cell, but she found out that she couldn't get through. She called again, and she got the same result. She then realized that her number was blocked.

A bit furious, she cursed, “Bitch! She blocked my cell! I just got the new number two weeks ago!”

“Not surprised, knowing how that Holy-Rolling nut works.”

“Yes, she is something else… Reiko-chan, do you know any other options we got?”

“No, none for now.”


“Maybe we should contact her school, you do know what her school is, right?”

“Of course I do, but they’re good friends with her.”

“Well that sucks, then there’s no point in trying Noriko,” her partner moped.

Noriko resigned for a bit, but something inside of her told her to make the call. So she went to the school’s website and looked for the number. Then she picked up her cell and gave them a call.

“Light of the Spirit Private High School, how can we help you?” asked the administrative assistant.

“Hi, I want to talk to someone who can provide me information regarding my daughter.”

“Ano miss, who is your daughter?”

“Kurusugawa Himeko.”

The phone went silent for a bit, until Noriko spoke up.

“Miss? Miss?”

“Ano… I’ll transfer you to someone who can help you,” the lady on the phone suggested.

The principal got the call from the assistant, “Somebody wants to talk to you Ayaki-san.”

“Who is it?”

“A woman who says that she’s Kurusugawa Himeko’s mother.”

He was shocked and went stiff a bit. “Let me answer it.”

The lady transferred the call and he answered, “This is principal Ayuki Reito, how may I help you?”

“Yes, I am trying to get any information about my daughter, Kurusugawa Himeko,” she asked. He knew simply by her voice that it had to be her mother. It was only an octave or two deeper than Himeko’s. He knew that Himeko transferred to another school in Tokyo, but he couldn’t take that chance of telling her about it and risk her being sent back to Mahoroba. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Himeko as student or anything like that. Actually, he was quiet fond of the shy blond. It was her aunt that he had problems with. She’s been quiet critical about the school lately, thinking it was becoming ‘too liberal’ and accuse him of making it so. There was no love lost between the two, and when her Art teacher told him about the abuse she was getting from her home, he was more than willing to go along with the secret transfer. He heard about Kazuki Oogami and his irreputable reputation, thus he felt that Himeko was better off in Tokyo.

“We don’t know where she is ma’am.”

“Well I know that she has been to Tokyo, because I’ve seen a picture of her at a convention she and another girl attended. It’s up on the website,” she primed. Reiko’s brother told her in another email that it was up on the website.

Now he was a bit worried. If she can find them on a site, then so could the aunt. Calming himself before answering again, he said, “Can you tell me the website?”

“Sure, do you have an email address? It would be easier that way.”

“Yes I do,” he informed. He gave her the address as she typed it on her laptop. He got the email and followed the link on it. There it was, Himeko and Chikane smiling in from the Battle Mikos convention. Now he was really nervous. Luckily it was no longer on the front page of the Battle Mikos Fan website. He had to contact the webmaster immediately and tell him or her about the situation.

“Well thanks for the info. Now we know where we can start looking for them,” he lied.

“Good, if you do find her, please, please, please inform me! I haven’t seen her since she was five years old. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Will do. Have a great day.”

“You too,” she ended as she hanged up.

“So… How did it go?” Reiko asked.

“They don’t know where she is,” she said as she started to cry. Reiko offered Noriko a shoulder for her to cry on, this was nothing new, she does cry a bit. It seems to be a family trait of sort… “I might not ever see my little girl again,” she lamented.

“She’s not little anymore, she’s sixteen now,” Reiko informed with her usual stoic tone.

“I know, but she’ll always be my little baby,” she weeped as she continued to cry on her lover’s shoulders.

Meanwhile the principal was seriously debating to himself whether she was trustworthy enough to tell her about her daughter. She seemed to truly miss her daughter, but eventually he felt that he made the right decision.


During lunch period, outside Chikane’s homeroom, Makoto had a talk with Chikane.

“We really need to talk about you and Souma-kun.”

Chikane however didn’t see the need to talk. Dismissively she responded, “I don’t really see the need to talk. Your boyfriend and I don’t like each other.”

“I beg to differ,” she replied back in a serious tone. Chikane raised her left eyebrow. “We do have something to talk about. I don’t want to see you two hurting each other He’s a passionate person, and he can be bull-headed, but he is a very capable fighter and he can seriously hurt you.”

Chickane wanted to laugh at Makoto's speculation. “I had him down on the floor last night. I can hurt him.”

“You might have, but you still shouldn’t take him lightly.” She warned.

“I’m not taking him likely, but I’m not going to have him push me around just because he's still delusional about his dysfunctional brother! Don’t you know what his brother did to me the other day, huh? He nearly killed me. Ask Himeko, she was there when it happened. The bastard threw a knife at me and it hit me around the shoulders. You tell him that if he fucks with me like that again, I will seriously fuck him up!" Chikane gritted.

Makoto was left speechless as she went back to her homeroom. As Makoto returned to her homeroom, she sat right next to Himeko, who was enjoying her lunch. Himeko looked at Makoto and something wrong. She wasn't being her spunky self, so Himeko asked, "What's wrong Mako-chan? And where's Chikane-chan? She would have been here."

"Nothing is wrong, and Chikane-san is in her homeroom."

A puzzled look appeared on Himeko's face. "Why? she's usually here, during lunch."

"She didn't want to come today." Everyone else was looking at Makoto strangly at the table.

Judging from Makoto's expression and Chikane's mysterious disappearance, Himeko knew something was terribly wrong. "I'll be back. Hopefully before lunch is over." So she picked up her food and went downstairs to Chikane's homeroom.


In Chikane's homeroom sat Chikane with three of her 'friends' - more like acquaintances: Izumi, Misaki, and Kyoko.

"Hey Miya-sama,"

"Please don't call me that. I hate it." She hates it when Corona calls her that in mockery.

"Sorry Himemiya-san."

"Chikane-san is fine enough. Never really care about honorifics anyway."

Himeko then came into the room. Chikane was a bit surprised to see her, but she was happy though.

"Himeko? What brings you here?"

"What's wrong Chikane-chan."

"Yeah, what's wrong? You're usually moody, but not like this." Izumi informed.

"Well, Souma-san and me had an argument last night and just a few minutes ago, me and Makoto-san came close to one as well."

“Why?” Himeko asked.

“She had the audacity to tell me that Souma-san can hurt me.”

“But why would he want to hurt you?” Misaki inquired.

“Because of what his brother did to me…” She went on to explain the story, with Himeko adding a few detail into it. The trio was left a bit stunned after she finished.

“Wow, now I see. But you should still be careful Souma-san is quite strong. He’s the best kendo and Akido fighter in the school. He reached the Kendo finals last year and nearly won it. He also reached the All-Japan semi-finals as well. He shouldn’t be taken lightly Chikane-san. Please think it over!” Izumi begged.

However Chikane’s pride wouldn’t budge. “Well he’ll find out that I’m no pushover if he tries to push my buttons again.”

Just as soon as she said that, Souma walked by the homeroom. He stopped and gave an icy cold look at Chikane. She didn’t noticed until she turned her head towards him. She stopped and gave him back her own stare.

Izuma tried to get Chikane’s attention, “Chikane-san, what do you think about…”, when she noticed Chikane looking at Souma. She turned and saw herself. Then Himeko and the rest of the girls noticed and they looked at Souma’s direction.

Quickly Souma walked away. Now the rest of the girls saw how serious this has become, and Himeko was very concern.


It was early Saturday afternoon and a visitor dropped by the house.

“Neko-chan!” She greeted followed with a hug.

“Hey there Himeko-chan! How are you doing?”

“Fine. I’m glad to see you. How are you doing?”

“Just great! We recently got more blankets since the winter has been rather brutal.”

“Oh, the great to hear!” Himeko chirped.

“It sure is. A few people already miss you down there.”

“I wish I could come, but I got school work, shrine work and kendo practice. I don’t have much free time to draw or paint like I used to.”

“I understand. But please don’t be a stranger, come and see us some time!”

“I’ll try. I’ll definitely will.” Then Chikane came in from outside and saw Nekoko. The two just looked at each other.

“Hi.” Chikane brisked.

“Hi.” Nekoko responded in the same tone.

Noticing the tension, Himeko thought of something. “Hey, I got a new DVD of Battle Mikos, wanna watch?”

Nekoko and Chikane looked at each other and just shrugged.

“I guess. Why not?” Chikane shrugged to Himeko.

“That’s great! I’ll get the DVD.”

While they were watching an episode of Battle Mikos on DVD, Himeko was getting into it, while Nekoko and Chikane were questioning what they were watching.

“Priestesses goes boom!” said a rather silly and ridiculous catgirl that Kannazuki no Miko fans are familiar with. Nekoko had some distain for the girl.

“What kind of idiot is she? She’s so ridiculous! And the worst part is that she sounds like me!” Chikane couldn’t help but to laugh her butt off on that one. “Shut up! You’re no better than that Kaon girl, brooding and moody all the time!”

“Hey! I’m nothing like her, right Himeko?”

“Ano... Ano...” she hesitated as she was fiddling her fingers in nervousness.

Now it was Nekoko’s turn to laugh while Chikane looked at her with anger. Himeko stopped the DVD and asked, “So did you like the cartoon so far?”

Both were speechless, they couldn’t tell her the truth. Himeko was starting to get nervous.

“Ano... I’ll got to go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”

And Himeko left. When it was clear that she was far away to hear them, Chikane spoke up.

“Well wasn’t that a stupid cartoon?”

“It sure was. I don’t know how anyone can like that crap.”

“I don’t know either. If there were even more decent lesbian couples in anime, then I bet it wouldn’t be so damn popular.” Chikane berated.

“Yeah, that’s for damn sure. Let me get the DVD.”

Chikane then playfully asked, “What are you going to do with the DVD?”

“Ano... Nothing, except don’t be surprise to see the ‘DVD goes boom!’” she answered in the same annoying tone as the catgirl in the cartoon.

Both Chikane and Nekoko started to laugh hysterically on couch. Himeko returned and was surprised to see both girls were laughing instead of trying to tear each other head’s apart.

“What’s so funny?” Himeko wondered.

“Ano... Nekoko told me a funny story!” Chikane lied. Himeko grinned even bigger, happy to see some sort of truce between the two ladies.

“Can you share it with me?”

Chikane and Nekoko were put on the spot. Luckily, the quick thinking Chikane had one. “Neko-san was telling me about what Hana-chan was wearing the other day.”

“It was a hoot!” Nekoko added.

Himeko started to laugh. Nekoko and Chikane just smiled.

“Let me get some more snacks. I’ll be back.”

She headed to the kitchen and saw Souma there standing.

“What’s up?” Himeko asked as she was getting some snacks.

“Nothing,” he told her briskly.

“What’s wrong? Does it have to do with Chikane-chan?”

“Of course. As long as she’s here it will be a problem.”

Himeko stopped what she was doing and looked at him. “I know you have issues with Chikane-chan, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“Doesn’t have to be that way? She insulted my brother!” he exasperated.

“I understand.”

“No you don’t. You or her doesn’t know my brother that well. He was a great brother, who took care of me when our parents died. He’s all that I have in terms of a true family. I know that the Oogami family care about me very much, but it’s not the same. He always looked out for me when I was young, now that he has this problem, it’s time for me to look out for him,” he told as he was about to tear up.

Himeko listened. “I understand where you are coming from, but there no need to be angry at Chikane-chan, she was attacked by your brother. Even Officer Martinez Girochi confirm this, and I heard he was close to him as well.”

“He was.”

“So please understand where she’s coming from. She’s hurt as well. How about if I have her apologize for her comments, would that help?”

“No.” And he walked away. Himeko was just standing there, looking in disbelief when Nekoko walked in, “Hime-chan, did you forget to get the snacks?”

“No, not really. I had a talk with Souma-san.”

“What was it about?”


Nekoko rolled her eyes, “What did she do this time?”

Himeko quickly explained the situation and she wasn’t close to either of them, so she agreed with the way Chikane reacted.

“I can’t blame her really. I’ve heard about him from Natashi-san. I would also be wary of living in the same place and be a bit paranoid.”

“I see that, but I’m afraid that things will get worse between the two. I don’t want that to happen.”

Knowing from the Snake Clan incident, Nekoko wasn’t surprise that Himeko would act this way.

“Well I hope that you can stop those two from killing each other. As much as I can’t stand Chikane-san and how I find Souma-san a bit annoying, I don’t want them to be beating each other up for basically nothing.”

“Neither do I. I don’t want to see this keep on going on. What should I do?”

“Maybe you should have them do some activity together, maybe it will force them to cooperate with each other.”

“Hey that’s a great idea! Thanks.”

“No problem! Now get the snacks and let’s watch something else.”



It was late January and the situation between Souma and Chikane wasn’t getting any better. Himeko thought that a board game would be perfect for them, where they were on the same time, while she and Kazuki was on the other. Unfortunately thing didn’t go according to plan, they nearly fought each other.

And things didn’t get better, the animosity between Souma and Chikane was slowly simmering each day to a full boil. It finally exploded one Saturday when Souma was practicing his kendo outside. Kazuki and Himeko wasn’t there since they went to pick up some supplies for the orphanage. Chikane just came back from a 7-Eleven, getting some pork buns.

When she came outside she saw Souma practicing and tried to ignore him but Souma called her out.


“What do you want?”

“You, bitch! Now I can finally put you in your place. No one’s here to stop us. Not nii-san, not your little girlfriend Himeko-chan.”

“So that’s what you want? If that’s what you want, then come and get it!” Chikane sneered loudly while positioning herself in a fighting stance.

Souma just laughed and sneered back, “No, not that way. I want you to put on that armor and grab that stick as well.”

Chikane couldn’t believe it, he was challenging her to a Kendo fight. Part of her was scared, after hearing and seeing for herself how good he was, but another part of her was looking forward to it, finally facing Souma. Though she would prefer a good old-fashioned fistfight, but Kendo was good enough.

She saw how big the armor was, she knew that she couldn’t wear it. “I’ll get my own armor. I’ll be back.” She went to her room, put on her gear and got her own stick. She returned, ready to take him on.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while, to finally shut that smart mouth of yours. I’m going to finally teach you not to disrespect my brother.”

“I never disrespected your mentally challenged brother. Now come to think of it, I don’t know who is more mentally challenged, your brother – or you!”

Souma got angry from her insult and came charging at her. Chikane quickly dodged. Souma turned around and Chikane quickly swung to his ribs. Souma blocked it with his stick. Chikane swung to the opposite side and Souma blocked again.

Next Souma went for a thrust but Chikane quickly dodged it. Chikane went to strike Souma and hit him right on his shoulders.

“Ouch!” he yelled.

Chikane smiled and struck him once again. She then went for the third strike, but then Souma blocked it and then he finally stuck her in the ribs. Chikane felt it through her armor and grimaced for a bit. Souma hit her once more, this time at her left arm and she yelled.

“Aaah! You’re gonna get it!”

“That’s what you think, you whore!”

That made Chikane even madder and she trust him right at his stomach. Souma winced and Chikane struck once again. Souma was starting to feel pain now. Chikane was going for another blow, but Souma was able to dodge it.

Souma then struck at Chikane, but she blocked it with her stick. Chikane swung back, but missed. This back-and-forth melee affair kept on going for more than a minute. Secretly, Souma was impressed with Chikane’s skills; no female has even gave him such a challenge. Chikane was also impressed with Souma’s kendo abilities, more so than before.

Then simultaneously, both fights swung their sticks at each other, blocking each other out, until Himeko stumbled and fell rather hard on the ground. Her helmet flew, giving Souma a perfect opportunity to strike her right on her face.

Chikane was in fear, as she lied helplessly awaiting her fate.

Just as Souma was about to lay the final blow on the fallen Chikane, he grinned and told her, “Now you will finally shut your mouth.”

He pulled his stick as far back as he could but then he felt something was pulling on his stick, or better yet someone.

“Stop it right now Souma!”

He let go of the stick and turned around to face a very furious Kazuki.

“What in kami has gone wrong with you!?!” He yelled like an angry lion. Ashamed of his own action, he sulked and said nothing. “Answer to me now! Why are you and Himemiya-san are fighting?”

Chikane barely got up and answered for him. “That bastard, and I do mean bastard, challenged me to a fight.”

“Did you?” He angrily answered.

“I sure did. I want to teach that bitch a lesson for disrespecting my brother.”

Kazuki pulled his arm back and slapped him across the face. “First of all, don’t you ever call her a bitch again? And second of all, that’s no excuse for getting into a fight with her. You will be punished for this, mark my word.”

Himeko quickly went to her lover’s aid.

“Chikane-chan, are you okay?” she asked. Tears started to come down her eyes.

“Yeah… I’m okay,” she coughed in pain. Kazuki came to her aid as well.


“Am I going to be punished as well,” she asked in fear.

Kazuki gave that a thought…


Later on that night, Souma’s brother Tsubasa was walking by a small electronic store when he saw on a displayed TV a blue-haired woman singing some run-of-the-mill J-Pop song.

“Blue daemon. Blue daemon. Blue daemon must die!”

He entered into the store and immediately the storeowner and a few of the customers took noticed. His hair was mangled, his teeth were rotten and he had a strong stench on him. The owner was already weary of him, and he had every reason to be, as he will soon find out.

Tsubasa went to the Television section and saw the same blue-haired woman. He let out an eerie and frightening scream. Everybody in the store heard it and they were either stunned, terrified, or both. He then started his in cohesive rambling.

“Die Jupiter blue-daemon! Blue daemon must kill!”

He pulled out a piece of metal and started smashing the TV. His psychosis was worsening as he was scaring everyone in the store. The store owner was terrifying fright and started calling the police.

There was a cop down the street when one of the patrons ran down frantically to get him.

“Officer, officer, come quick! Someone’s smashing the TVs in the store!”

The cop saw the panic on the patron’s face and without questioning, ran down to the store.

He started to go to the Audio section and smashed the stereo systems there with all of his psychotic rage in him. Without any discrimination, he was smashing and demolishing everything around him.

One of the people in the store tried to leave, but Tsubasa spotted him and he went after him like a German Shepard. The guy was blue-haired, thus Tsubasa though that he was evil.

“Blue Daemon must die!”

“Oh no!” The man screamed in terrifying fear. He tried to run, but Tsubasa was faster, tackling the man down. He was back in the TV section. He grabbed him by his hair and smashed his face in front of a LCD TV screen. He was lucky that he didn’t get shocked.

“DIE! DIE! DIE!” he screamed like a raving maniac.

Tsubasa had the blue-haired man by his hair as he was about to strike him was the metal when the police came.

“Freeze!” The officer screamed with his gun pointing towards him.

He let out a loud scream and tried to throw the metal but the officer quickly shot him a few times. A female customer who was nearby screamed in fright.

Tsubasa started to bleed profusely as he was stumbling. He took a few more steps towards the police. The police took precautions by shooting him again, stopping him on his tracks. Finally, he collapsed hard on the floor.

The real-life nightmare was finally over for the owner and the patrons, especially the blue-haired man who was bloodied and was taken to the hospital. There he was, lying there dead with blood still flowing out of his body. He was no more.


Even later in the night was a tired Hana, who had a meeting with the ‘girls’. As soon as he got to his ‘home’ in the back alley, he was greeted by four people who was wearing nothing but black. They slowly approached him as he started to back himself to the back of the alley. They even had their faces covered up, except their eyes. Hana immediately noticed that one of them was a woman, due to the body shape.

They didn’t say anything, just continued to slowly approach him until his back was against the wall. Then one of the finally spoke. “Well if it isn’t the king of the queens himself, Hana-chan.” Hana was terrified, he knew who it was and he feared for his life. “Alright, let’s cut the bull, where did you get that necklace from?”

“I’m not telling you anything.”

“Wrong answer.” One of them pulled out a razor and slashed him across his cheek.

“Aaaaahhh!” He screamed. One of the thugs forcefully yanked the necklace from his neck.

“Hey be careful! That gold chain cost some money.”

“I’m sorry.”

Hana knew that voice is familiar.

“Oh my God, it’s –“

“Shut the hell up okame!” The person said as he slashed the other cheek.

“Now you got one more chance to tell us who gave you the necklace. Who gave you the damn necklace?”

“You’re going to kill me either way or, so all I’m going to say to you is to go fuck yourself!” Then he spit at his eyes, the only exposed part of his body. The man was furious and he proceeds to punch him right at his mouth.

Something then came in his mind, he decided to ask some questions.

“Did that cat girl gave it to you?”

“Not telling.”

He punched him in the stomach.

“Did any of your fag buddies gave it to you?” He didn’t say anything, but moaned from the punches, so he backhanded him on his face. Now he was spitting blood. “Did Natashi-san give it to you?” Still nothing, so he grabbed him by his hair and slammed his face against the wall. Meanwhile the female member started looking for clues that can help. She saw a picture of him with Himeko and Chikane from the other day. She had a hunch that Chikane was behind it. Everybody in the streets knows that Chikane is a thief.

She brought the picture to him and showed it to him, pointing to Chikane. She didn’t say a word, afraid that Hana might recognize her voice, like he did for the other hoodlum.

The man saw it and then asked, “Did that koji bitch gave it to you?” He didn’t say anything but he didn’t have to. His eyes jumped and he trembled a bit when he said it, that was enough to give him an answer.

“So it was her after all? Well that koji bitch is going to pay for it! After you.”

He punched him in the stomach one more time. He was now coughing up blood, but the group wasn’t done yet.

“So you refuse to talk, huh? Well I’m going to teach you a lesson for that.”

So he grabbed a stone, and struck Hana at his mouth, smashing some of his teeth out. His mouth was bleeding as he spits out some of his teeth. The female member noticed Hana’s nails.

“Ah, look at those nails, they’re so well-manicured – until now!” She took the rock from the leader, pinned his hand against the wall, and smashed it. He was screaming in agonizing pain, but couldn’t do much about it because the other members were holding him as she proceeds to bash his nails. They did the same with the other hand.

They weren’t done yet. The leader gouged him in his eyes, making him scream. He wasn’t blinded since he closed his eyes, but the pain was still excruciating.

Thinking that he didn’t get enough, they slashed him a few more times all over his body, just for the simple fact that he was gay. He was too week to walk or do anything. Bleeding profusely, they poured some rubbing alcohol all over him.

Then the leader pulled out a matchbox and spoke to him for the very last time.

“I heard that you’re a Christian and that Christians think that fags like you will burn in hell. Well consider this a preparation for your eventual doomed fate. It time for you to die, you sick queer!”

Finally, they threw the match on him. They quickly left the area. Hana was covered in flames. Finally, he was burned. The only thing remained was a burnt body of the former Hana Misaki. Two deaths in one day, it was judgment night for the both of them, and the verdict did not go in their favor.


Chapter 18

Title: The Aftermath

It was 11:15 PM and Girochi got word of a fire near an alley in Shinjuku. When he heard where it was located, he immediately went over there, knowing that's where Hana lives. He was hoping that Hana wasn't hurt in anyway possible.


When he got there, his worst fears came true. He saw a badly burnt body. He already knew it was Hana, judging by the height. He was trying hard to hold back his tears, but he knew he had a job to do. He also knew that he would have to tell his sister sooner or later about this, so he gave her a call but she didn't answer. He ended up leaving a message. At the scene was guy who was passing by when he saw the fire and reported it.


"Did you see anything else besides the fire?" He asked.


"No I didn't. Are you expecting some sort of foul play?"


"I can't say. I'm not a detective. I'll have them handle this as well." Though he suspected that it was. Instantly, he got a call from his sister.


"Hola?" (Hello?)


"Hola. Que pasa?" (Hello. What's up?)


"Yo tengo noticias mal. Hana-chan es muerte." (I have some bad news, Hana-chan is dead).


Miyako went silent for a bit, then she answered "Are you serious. Please tell me that you're kidding."


"I wish I was, but I'm not. He really is dead. Someone murdered him. I'm at the alley where he stays. He was - "


Girochi could hear some sniffles in the background. His sister started to cry.


"Don't tell me how he was killed, and don't you go anywhere, I will be right there," she said with cracks in her voice. She only lived a few minutes from the alley.


A little over five minutes later, she arrived. Seeing the police cars, ambulance, and a covered body on a stretcher, she knew he was serious.


As soon as he spotted her, Girochi came up to her. "Hi there."


"Hi. Can I take a look at the body?"


"Are you sure? You don't seem to be in the right frameset."


"I am. Please let me take a look."


Then Girochi came up to one of the paramedics and asked him to uncover the body. What she saw nearly put her to shock. It was the badly burnt body of Hana. She couldn't believe it.


"Oh my God!" Then she started to cry. Girochi pulled out some napkins from his pants pocket and gave it to her. She hysterically cried for a bit before one of the detectives spoke to her. Girochi was surprised, for she was very calm and collected most of the time. The only time he ever saw her like this was when they returned back to Peru to see their parents' graves.


"Ma'am, I would like to offer my condolences to you, but we need to ask you a few questions."


"Okay," she responded while drying off her tears. While she was answering the detective's questions, Girochi got a call from a fellow police officer.




"Hey Martinez-san, it's Chikanatsu-san. I got some bad news for you."


"What? More bad news?"


"What do you mean?" the officer asked. He was rather puzzled.


"Hana-chan is dead."


The officer didn't say anything for a bit. "Oh kami... That's not good. Was he murdered?"


"Yeah, I suspected that someone purposely set him on fire."


Chikanatsu was even more stunned. "Oh kami, that's terrible. He was a good man."


"He sure was, but tell me the bad news please. I doubt it couldn't be any worse."


The officer gulped at first. "It probably is. Your sister's ex-boyfriend, Oogami Tsubasa, is dead."


Girochi was wrong, it did get worse. "What!" he shouted. "You're kidding."


"I'm kidding as much as you are kidding about Hana-chan's death. I'm at the electronic store where he was shot by Officer Fukao-san."


Now he couldn't hold back his tears any longer, as he started to ask questions.


"But why would he do that? What happened?"


"From what the owner told us, Oogami-san entered in the store and started to smash things around him, especially the TVs. Then he went after a guy and nearly killed him. When he arrived there, he said that he saw him with the guy and he was about to throw a piece of metal at him. So he quickly shot him. I'm so sorry..."


Girochi couldn't believe it, two deaths of two people he knew very well in one night. He could have never thought of a worse night than this, besides the night that his parents died.


When she was finished being questioned, Girochi came up to Miyako and told her the other bad news. She was still crying.


"I got word from another officer that Tsubasa-san" He was struggling to say the last word, as he started to cry. Finally he was able to utter it out. "Dead." Now Miyako was in total shock. She couldn't believe it. The person who was once the love of her life is now gone. Hana was bad enough, but this was truly even worse. "We need to go over there now."


She didn't respond, but instead shook her head and cried even more.


Girochi was about to drive over there, but another officer saw his state-of-mind and convinced him to let him drive him and his sister over there. As the officer was driving to the store, neither said a word during the trip. All they could think of is what was happening. They just kept crying as the police vehicle traveled down the road.


Finally they arrived, and the body was now covered up, but it was still lying on the floor. Girochi talked to his fellow officer and he removed the cover over Tsubasa's face.


When she saw the dead face of Tsubasa, she immediately broke down and cried. On her knees with her hands over her face, she wept heavily. Girochi was barely better, as tears streamed down his face from his watery eyes.


Officer Chikanatsu spotted him. "Girochi-san. I'm surprised that you came."


"I had to, as painful as it was. He was like a brother to me. He was my sister's boyfriend at one time." He responded back in tears.


Chikanatsu offered him a paper handkerchief. Then he offered the weeping nun one as well. She dried her eyes and then when she regained composure, she got angry, but true to her nature, she didn't shout.


"Why did you do this to Tsubasa-san? Why?" She shouted angrily at the cop.


Girochi quickly came to her and tried to calm her down. "Please sis, he was just doing his job. Besides, he wasn't the one who did it."


"No I wasn't. It was another officer."


"Where is he? Where the heck is he!" she demanded furiously.


The officer understood how upset she was. Instead, he calmly told her, "He already went back to the police department. I'm sorry ma'am."


Then his colleague came to him and told him, "Let me handle this."


"No problem." He left the area and then Miyako asked her brother a question.


"Let me see his rest of his body, please."


"I don't think you want to -"






He pulled the sheets off the rest of his body and saw a cold, bloodied body of Tsubasa. Hysterically, Miyako quickly left the area and cried even more. Girochi came up to her and offered her his big shoulders to cry on. He too was still in tears. He knew he had to sooner or later make another phone call to tell the devastating news.




Later on that night, while Kazuki was sound asleep, he got a phone call.


"Hello," he said with a tired voice.


"Oogami-sensei, is that you?"


"Yes it is. Hi there Girochi-san."


"Hi. I got some bad news to tell you. Tsubasa-san is dead. He was killed over an hour ago." He informed with his voice crackling.


The stoic Kazuki feared that this day would happen, but he was still left speechless.


"Are you there Oogami-sensei."


"Yes I am. How did it happen?"


Girochi told him the entire story of what happened and it left Kazuki even more numbed.


"So where are you now?"


"I'm at Gold Star Electronics in Yotsuya."


"Gold Star Electronics in Yotsuya?



"Listen, I'll be there in no less then twenty minutes. Don't go anywhere!"


Little did he know that Souma heard the conversation. Souma expected it had to do with his brother. As soon as Kazuki left, he started to get himself dress and got on his motorcycle.


Five minutes after Souma left, a knock was heard from the front door. Chikane was fast asleep, but Himeko was still up. She was sitting up on her bed, doing some drawing. Instantly, she got out of her side of the bed and opened the door. It was Natashi.


"Natashi-san, it's good to see you, but why are you here so late?" She asked softly, not wanting to wake up everyone else in the house.


"I got some news to tell you." Himeko noticed the sadness on his face, she knew it had to be serious. "Is Chikane-san up?"


"No she's not. She's not a night owl like me." Himeko chuckled, but Natashi was in no mood to chuckle. Himeko noticed and stopped her chuckling. Then she asked, "So what's the news?"


Natashi was about to tell her, but he started to cry. While crying, he told her, "Hana-chan is dead."


Himeko's mouth opened in shocked. "Is that so?"


"Yes. They found his body burnt at his place and I know who do it."


"Who?" She asked as tears started to fill up her eyes.


"It was the mysterious black masked crew. They left this at my place."


Natashi pulled out the letter and showed it to Himeko. It was written rather sloppy, but it was on purpose. The person who wrote it must have wrote it with his non-writing hand, so it can't be traced. Natashi proceed to read the latter.


"To Natashi-san and Nekoko-san. This is a warning to anybody who takes our stuff. In this case, it was a jewelry that Himemiya-san stole from us. We will get her sooner or later, and don't try to stop us because if you do, you'll be next."


Himeko was now very frightened. It had to be that necklace that she stole from the pawn shop on their birthday. Sadness and grief of Hana filled one half of her soul while anger and upset of Chikane filled the other. She started to cry and rather loudly, as she wept on Natashi shoulders. It was loud enough to wake up Chikane.


Chikane woke up and came to the main room. She saw a sad and crying Himeko and Natashi.


"Natashi-san, what are you doing here? And why all this crying?"


Natashi regain his composure and told her, "Hana-chan was killed by the black-masked group." He was angry at her as well.


Chikane was now shocked, she hasn't realized that it was because of her actions - yet.


"What? Those bastards! Always praying on the innocent!"


"Not this time! They had a reason! Read the freaking paper and you'll find out!" Himeko yelled in anger and used the strongest word in her vocabulary. She came up to her lover and slapped the paper on her chest. Chikane knew that she must have done something very wrong for Himeko to get angry like that.


She was about to say something about it, but instead she read the paper and then she started to break down as well. While she was crying, she pleaded as well.


"I'm so sorry! I didn't mean for it to happen like this!" She cried.


"You knew you shouldn't have stolen that necklace! I told you it was a bad idea!" Himeko yelled back.


"But I was doing it as a favor. Honest I swear!"


"Himemiya-san, this is nothing new. You've done this quite a few times. Now it has finally caught up to you, and others have paid the price because of it. In Hana-chan's case, the price was his life!" Yelled an angry Natashi.


"I'm so sorry. Please forgive me, please!" She begged as she got down on her knees and started to cry.


Natashi told her, "For you, never." And he stormed out of the place, leaving Himeko to deal with the guilty Chikane.


"I do forgive you Chikane-chan, for I know that you had good intentions in giving that necklace to Hana-chan, but what you did was still wrong." And she went back to her bed. Chikane kept on crying, she didn't even bother to go back to her bedroom.




When he got there, he saw the body on the stretcher a few feet away. It took everything inside of him to remain calm and collective. As he was walking up to the body, one of the detectives stopped him.


"Sir, this is a crime scene, unless you got permission, you can't be around here."


Girochi came up to the detective.


"He's with me. He's the brother of the victim."


"Please, let me see him." Kazuki begged.


"Will you be okay?" The detective asked.


Still regaining his composure, he told him. "Yes."


The detective pulled up the yellow tape and Kazuki and Girochi went under it. He then pulled the cover off of Tsubasa's face. Kazuki was silent for a bit, now he was really struggling to keep his cool.


"Are you next of kin to Oogami Tsubasa."


"Yes." He struggled to reply as he started to tremble.


"Is this the body of Oogami Tsubasa?"




Finally Souma arrives. Girochi heard the motorcycle's rumble and took noticed.




Kazuki turned around and noticed. "What are you doing here?"


"Where is he?" Souma asked. It didn't take long to get his answer as he saw his brother's uncovered face in the background. In that instant moment, he suddenly lost it.


"NOOOOOOOO! NO! NOOOOOOOO!!!!" He started to cry hysterically. Girochi and a few of the police officers rushed over to calm him down. Kazuki quickly came up to him and tried his best to calm him down, with tears of his own running down his face. This was not a night that anybody will ever forget.



Chapter 19

Title: Miyako’s Story and Dilemma

Chapter 18 – Miyako's Story and Dilemma.

It was a day that Sister Miyako dreaded, the day of the funerals for both Hana and Tsubasa. It was hard for her to cope with the loss of two close people. She had to attend both ceremonies, because she was to speak at both of them. Tears streaming down her face, she prayed to the Lord, asking for much needed strength.

"Lord, please be there for me today. I need your strength more than ever. Two people that I know very well are gone, and I am going through my own trouble as well."

What was going on was that she had received a letter the other day, stating that she will have to leave the country in the next three months. Japan has been recently sending back some foreigners to their home countries, due to job scarcity and the ever-lasting recession. Japan has rather strict laws in regards to immigrants from countries like Brazil and Peru. For instance, they have to be of Japanese descent. Miyako was, but since she hasn't become a citizen, she can still be sent back.

For Miyako, that means going back to her homeland of Peru. Which would have been fine, if she wasn't considered a fugitive over there…


Meanwhile, there was another person praying to God.

"God, please look out for Chikane-chan. I know she doesn't believe in you, but please be there for her, she's going through a hard time, like everyone else here. This really isn't her fault." Himeko shared to Him as she started to weep. "I don't know why you let a nice, caring, guy like Hana-chan die. It's not in my position to question you, but I just feel like it's unfair for him to die the way he did. He didn't deserve to die like that. He was a sweet and caring man, God. With the way he died, it makes me scared as well."

Chikane then walked into their room. "Himeko – Sorry, I didn't know that you were busy. We got to go to Hana-chan's funeral."

"No, I'm not busy, I'm ready." Then she quickly ended her prayer, "Talk to you later God."

Chikane then asked Himeko, "Were you talking to God?"

"Yes, I was."

Chikane hung her head down low and sighed. "He probably hates me now."

"No he doesn't Chikane-chan! He loves us all, no matter how much wrong we do. He will always be there for us, no matter what, until the day we die, or the day his Son comes back to save us. People have done far worse things than what you did, but God saved them as well. There's always hope and salvation Chikane-chan, believe me on that one."

"But you don't really understand my situation."

"Maybe not, but I do know what it's like to feel hopeless, like God has abandoned me. That's how I felt while I was living with my relatives, but there really always is hope Chikane-chan, there is."

"I hope so…"

Then they heard Kazuki's voice shouting from the other room. "Kurusugawa-san, Himemiya-san, let's go, we're leaving now!"

"Okay Oogami-sensei!" Himeko, replied back. "Come on, let's talk some more in the car."


It was eleven o'clock already when the funeral got started. It was held in an Adventist church down at Shibuya. The reason why it was held at a rather remote location is because after they did an autopsy of Hana, they found out that he was HIV positive. Many churches turned his funeral down because of it. Nekoko went so far as to ask the Buddhist temples to hold his funeral, even though he was not a Buddhist, but they refused as well. It wasn't until Natashi found a church that was willing to have a funeral and to cremate him.

Nekoko and Sister Miyako were in charge of the funeral, but Sister Miyako had to run a few errands, so she wasn't around. Many people from the streets came to pay tribute to him; they dressed in their best attire – well as best as they could since most of them were homeless. The "girls" were there as well.

It was a closed casket, since his body was burned badly, and they hadn't cremated him yet. There were pictures of him on top of the casket, showing his joyful moments to offsets the somber mood in the church, yet it failed miserably.

During that time, a man came in, who somewhat resembled Hana. He didn't dress like Hana, nor had his hairstyle like him, but he has his facial resemblance and his height. Natashi saw this man and greeted him.

"Thanks for coming. May I ask who are you?"

"I'm Masaki Yoshi, Hana-chan's brother."

"Oh, nice to meet you."

"Thanks." He bowed.

"So where are you parents and the other siblings? I know that he also had another brother and a sister."

Yoshi closed his eyes for a bit and told him, "They didn't want to come. They're ashamed of him."

"I'm so sorry to hear that."

"My parents put him out when he was 18. It's a long and unnecessary story to tell you right now." He closed his eyes and sighed.

"Well thanks for coming. Unfortunately, it's a closed casket since the burns on him were serious. The morticians tried their best but they told me it wouldn't work."

"Yes, I've heard. I can't believe someone would do this to him. I lost contact with him two years ago and tried desperately to find him, but now I see it's too late…" He put his hands to his face as he started to cry. Natashi comforted him.

"Now there, it's not your fault whatsoever. He was always a bit ashamed of being homeless. He didn't want you or anybody else in his family to know that he was homeless."

"Yeah, that was always his problem – pride."

Natashi had a small smirk. "He sure had a lot of that. Anyways, I'll leave you to pay your final respects to your brother."

Yoshi smiled while wiping his eyes. "Thanks."

He went up to the casket and spoke to his decease older brother.

"Onee-chan. I wish that you had let me know that you were homeless. I could have taken care of you until you got on your feet again. I know you have a sense of great pride for yourself, but there was no reason to be ashamed, I would have done anything for you. You were always there to help me when I was young."

He started to sob again. "I just wish otou-san and okaa-san cared for you the way they should have. It disgusts and angers me bitterly at what those evil men did to you. It disgusts and angers me even more that our family won't come here to pay their final respect for you. However, I want to let you know that I will always remember the times we had together, always. I still remember that time when you gave your last 100 yen to buy me that tofu, even though you were hungry. I also remember you telling me stories at night, just so I can go to sleep. I knew that maybe one day you will leave this earth before I did, but not like this." He couldn't continue as his sobbing got in the way.

A few minutes later, Nekoko came back. She saw Yoshi, but not knowing who he was, she asked Natashi.

"Who is that man? He looks rather similar to Hana-chan."

"That's Yoshi-san. He's Hana-chan's brother. He's the only one from his family who came."

"Oh. That's all?"

"That's all. None of the other family members wanted to come. They pretty much disowned him."

Nekoko closed her eyes and sighed. "I guess it won't hurt to introduce myself to him."

She came up to him and greeted herself. "Hi, I'm Nekoko, Hana-chan's friend. You must be his brother?

By then, he already finished his weeping, so he looked at her rather peculiarly. "Yes I am. Glad to meet you." He bowed. "May I ask what are you?"

Nekoko was used to it by now, so she simply explained to him, "I'm a catgirl, half-cat, half-female human. I'm a product of a sick and twisted experiment." At the same time, she was hoping that her seizures wouldn't show up today.

Yoshi didn't really know what to make of her. "That's very interesting…"

Not wanting to talk anymore about herself, Nekoko quickly changed the subject. "How did you find out about the funeral?"

"I saw it in the papers. The police told me about his death the day after it occurred, since I'm his only relative in this area."

"I see. Where do you live?"

"I live in Aoyama, but it's been only a year since I moved to Tokyo. How long have you known my brother?" He asked.

"Almost two years ago. It seems like yesterday when we were fighting over this scarf that someone left on a bench at the park." She chuckled. "He got it. It was for the best, it looked better on him."

Yoshi smiled, then chuckled. "That's him alright. He always had to look good."

"I got to get some more stuff. Come outside with me please, and tell me more about your brother."

"Sure, thanks for having the funeral for him."

"No problem; anything for a great friend of mine."

Then came Kazuki, Souma, Makoto, Himeko and Chikane. As soon as everybody saw Chikane, the whole church went silent. There were people seething at her angrily, while others took pity for her. At that moment, Chikane was starting to feel uncomfortable being at the funeral.

As soon as she saw the casket, Himeko started to cry. The fact that it was a closed casket made his death even harder for Himeko and Chikane.

"I don't know if I can go through this Himeko." Chikane hesitated while she started to get nervous from the cold glares and empathetic stares the people were giving her. While clenching her right hand, she was also starting to feel ashamed and avoided any direct eye contact from the people. Himeko noticed and tried to help her as best as she could.

"You can. It will help bring some closure for you. You can't let this affect you forever." She suggested while gently rubbing Chikane on her back

They went up together to the casket and paid their final respects to Hana. As they walked to the casket together, HImeko grabbed Chikane's hand in comfort. Chikane squeezed hard that Himeko felt pain, but she did her best not to let it affect her. She knew that Chikane was hurting inside and that Chikane had to let it out.

Himeko was the first to speak to him. "Hana-chan, I hope that you will be in heaven someday. The world is not good enough for you." She sniffled. "I just want to thank you for being a friend to me. Thank you for accepting me when all the others on the streets didn't, and thank you for being a positive influence in my life. May you finally rest in peace, and most important of all, may God bless your soul." Then she told him goodbye for the last time. "Sayonara Hana-chan." She turned and shuffled away sobbing. Makoto was there comfort her.

"He's gone, Makoto-chan. He's gone!" Himeko bellowed out in misery.

"I know Hime-chan, I know."

Then Chikane whispered to him, while trying her best to keep herself from breaking down, "I'm so terribly sorry. It's all my stupid fault, if I didn't give you that stupid necklace, you wouldn't be here. You would still be trying to put makeup all over me. You would still help me out with my clothing. I wish I -."

"What the hell are you doing here?" snarled a seething and furious Nekoko behind her, who came back in with Yoshi.

Rudely interrupted, Chikane turned around and looked at the pissed-off catgirl.

Slightly irritated, Chikane responded, "I came to pay my respects to the late Hana-chan. Can I at least do that?"

Yoshi asked Nekoko, "Who is she?"

"She's the bitch who is responsible for your brother's death." Nekoko then focused her rage on Chikane. "Hana-chan wouldn't have been dead if it wasn't for you, you thieving bitch!"

Kazuki came up to her and tried to stop it.

"Nekoko-san, this is really unnecessary. Show some respect."

"Oh it's very necessary and this bimbo deserves no respect whatsoever. Not only did she put herself at risk, but she also put all of us at risk." She dropped everything, and then she pulled out a letter and read it out loud. "To Nekoko. Your okama friend is dead because that stupid orphan girl stole our jewelry and gave it to that dick sucker. Plus he was getting on our nerves with his pathetic 'vengeance' against us and his shameful girlish ways. Now we are coming after that koji bitch and her rezu girlfriend. If you try to stand in our way, we will take you out just like what we did to him. Chikane-san and Himeko-san, if you are reading this, we will hunt the both of you down and make you wish that you were never born. What we are going to do to you two rezus would be even worse than what we did to that okama. The question is when?"

Himeko was now frightened and Chikane was extremely worried. "I'm very sorry about all this, honestly!"

"Oh you'll be sorry about this alright, when I get done with you..." Nekoko then exposed her claws and let out a screeching yelp. "NNNYYYYYYAAAAAAHHHHHH!" And she lunged at Chikane. Chikane fell hard to the floor.

Both girls were on the ground, tumbling all over as Nekoko and Chikane had their hands on each other's necks.

"Stop it you two. Stop it please!" Himeko begged.

Eventually Kazuki and Souma ran up to them and were able to pull the two women from each other. They did their best to hold them back.

"Let me go! Let me go, nyah!" Nekoko argued as Souma was struggling to hold her back. He was quite amazed at how strong she was.

Then Kazuki yelled, "Enough!" Everybody then became quiet and all attention was on Kazuki. "I know that there's a lot of anger and frustration in this room, but let's not make this worse than it already is."

"I can't see it getting any worse. The man is dead because of her! I don't want you to be in my presence ever again!" Nekoko spat at Chikane.

Just when Kazuki was about to respond, Chikane paused him with her hand and spoke up.

"Fine with me, I'll leave. It seems that the service is better off without me."

Kazuki tried to talk her out of it. "No Himemiya-san, you shouldn't have to."

"No, it will be better this way. I'll just make the funeral even worse."

As she was about to walk out, Hiemko pleaded with her, "Chikane-chan, wait for me!"

Nekoko couldn't believe that Himeko will stand by Chikane even though her life was in danger because of Chikane. "You're still sticking with this murderer even though she's responsible for Hana-chan's death?" Nekoko growled.

"She's not! She didn't expect this to happen. I love her, Neko-chan."

"Well fine, leave with her then. I don't want to speak to you ever again. As far as I'm concerned, our friendship is over!"

Himeko was shocked when she heard that. "No Neko-chan! No!" She begged.

"It's over, Kurusugawa-san!" And then she turned her back to her.

Himeko started to cry even more, and Chikane spoke to her. "Let's go, Himeko."

She started to leave with Chikane, and Nekoko never looked back.

Everybody was shocked by the turn of events occurring. Kazuki was about to speak, but Nekoko spoke before he could say a word.

"Not a word Oogami-sensei. I am sticking with my decision."

Silently Chikane and Himeko walked out of the church. Everybody looked at somewhere else besides them, especially Nekoko, who still had her back turned on them.

"This is not good onii-san." Souma commented.

"No it isn't. We will have to watch those two, especially Kurursugawa-san. We don't know when they will strike."


There were people who were walking in the church, ignoring them with bitter disgust on their face, while others gave them sympathetic glances. The two girls saw this and quickly hustled out of the area. Nobody knew where they went.

When they were away from the church, both girls were very sad, but Himeko was really wailing.

"I lost two of my best friends, Chikane-chan." She sniveled on Chikane's shoulders. "Hana-chan is dead, and Neko-chan doesn't want to speak to me anymore."

Chikane didn't respond back, she was wallowing in her own sorrows. "This is biggest fuck up I've ever done." Chikane said out loud to herself. "She's right, Hana-chan is dead because of me. It's really is all my fault."

Himeko looked at her soulmate and told her, "No it isn't. It's not your fault. Stop saying that, it's not true! Hana-chan could have not accepted the necklace. Did he know where it came from?"

"He knew, but he didn't seem to care."

"Well then, it's also his fault. He knew he was also taking a risk when he got it from you."

"He did… Yet, I feel like it's all my fault." Chikane continued with her wallowing.

"It's not, okay. Remember we had this discussion earlier?" Himeko reminded her partner. "Don't let Neko-chan words get to you. Please."

"I wish it was so easy Himeko. I wish it was."

"It's not, but remember, it's not all your fault."

On their walk, Himeko started to share something that was really scaring her inside. "After what they've done to Hana-chan, I'm terrified."

Chikane then looked at her partner through her cloudy eyes and asked, "What do you mean, because they're coming after us?"

"That's part of it, but what I really mean is," she paused to take care of her sniffles, "is this what's going to happen to us, because we're gay?" Chikane was stunned for a bit, knowing the answer wouldn't be so easy as Himeko continued. "I mean, do people really hate us so much just because we love differently? Not only that people want us dead, but they also want to torture and maim us, just to punish us for being lesbians? I'm terrified Chikane-chan, I'm really terrified that people want us dead." She then broke down, and bawled on Chikane's chest. "People hate us for something we have no control over. People want us dead." She kept on crying as Chikane was trying to find an answer. Eventually, Chikane figure it was best to tell her truthfully how she felt.

"I wish I could tell you that it wasn't true, that your fear is unfounded, but I can't Himeko, I can't. I wish I could." Eventually, Chikane couldn't hold it much longer and started to break down in tears. In all that was going around them, at least they had each other, but for how long?


Sister Miyako came about an hour later, just in time to give her eulogy. Natashi was the first to meet her.

"Greetings Sister Miyako. You just got here in time."

"I know, but I was extremely busy trying to get Tsubasa-san's memorial ready. What's up?"

"Well, you just missed an altercation between Neko-chan and Chikane-san."

Sister Miyako eyes raised in shock. "What?"

"Chikane-san and Himeko-san came to pay their respects, even though Neko-chan didn't invite her. She was terribly upset to see Chikane-san there, so while Chikane-san was near the casket, Neko-chan went up to her and yelled at her, then those two started to attack each other. It was bad, Sister Miyako. The priest and his brother had to break the two up. Chikane-san decided to leave and Hime-san left with her. We don't know where those two went."

"Oh no… how long ago was this?"

"About an hour ago. Things have calmed down since, but Neko-chan still looks infuriated."

"Great. I really wanted to see Chikane-san."


"I'll tell you after the funeral. I think it's about time for me to deliver my eulogy."

Miyako headed to the podium, thinking about what Natashi told her. Now it made her even more determined to talk to Chikane, before it's too late.

As she got on the podium, memories of her and Hana rushed through her head, like they just happened yesterday.

"Hana-chan had lived an amazing life, even though it was unfortunately cut short. Hana-chan was a great friend; he was always there for you when you needed somebody to be there. He was like both a brother and sister to me." She joked. People in the room chuckled. "He was one of my closest friends here. He didn't care that I was not pure Japanese or that I came from another country. All he cared about was the person inside of me.

He stood up for others, even though others might not have stood up for him. He lived his life in his own terms, even though others met it with disapproval. He believed in the Church, even though the church didn't want to believe in him.

People who knew him, knew that no matter how hard you pushed him down, he kept coming back up. His sense of pride was great. He was of course, very vain." She chuckled. "He still had to look good despite being homeless. He would sometimes spend hours looking for the best blouse in our church's donated clothes boxes." She laughed.

"I still remember the first time I met him two years ago. It was at the CHO (Catholics Helping Others) Food Service. He was standing in line with the others. When it was his turn to get his food, he saw my earrings. I remember him asking me, 'Darling, where did you get those earrings?' I told him I got it from my mother when I was living in Peru, and from that point on, we started talking, much to the chagrin of the other people in the line."

There's another reason those earring means a lot to Sister Miyako, it was the last gift her mother gave her before she died tragically.


It was summer of 1994, and Sister Miyako was staying at a vacation home with her parents and her brother. She was only twelve years old and Girochi was only ten. The vacation home was a big villa on top of the hills in Peruvian Amazon. They were enjoying their dinner when they heard knocks on the door.

"Okay I'll get it." The father said as he left the table and opened the door.

"What do you want – oh no!"

There were two men outside with guns. One took a shot at the father, right at his chest. Instantly, her mother screamed. Miyako and Girochi were in shock as the man ran into the house. Miyako got over it and pulled her brother with her. They sprinted to their room as one of the gunmen chased after them.

The other gunman came right up to her mother, pointing his shotgun right at her. She got on her knees, begging for her life.

"What do you want? Why are you doing this?"

The gunman only responded with "It's time for you to die, you scum!" Then he aimed right for her head, and pulled the trigger.

Miyako quickly locked the door. The gunmen shot through the door to make a hole. Miyako and Girochi climbed out of the window. Fortunately, their backyard was not too far away from a jungle. Immediately, they ran into it, hoping to lose the gunman through the thickness of trees and plants. The gunman saw the open window, and knew they went into the jungle. The jungle was too thick for him to see where they went.

The reason for the killings was that the gunmen were part of a left-wing militia who were bitter rivals with then-Peruvian president, Roberto Motofuji. They call themselves "La Revoluciones." Just recently there was a coup, and they overthrew the president. Miyako and Girochi's parents were close friends and loyal supporters of the president, helping him to win the presidency. Their mother worked with the Peruvian police in capturing the militia men. The militia had targeted the parents for years, even since Motofuji came into power. This was not the first time Miyako and Girochi been in trouble. Two years earlier, they came close to being victims of a car bomb.

Miyako knew that the gunman would still be looking for them, so she made a suggestion to Girochi.

"We should climb up one of those trees, so it will be hard for him to find us."

"Great idea!"

Miyako climbed up one of the trees and Girochi followed. There they stayed still for hours in steamy and humid jungle while the gunman was still in the area. He passed them twice but he never spotted them. They were fortunate that they didn't slip out of the tree or accidentally knock something off the tree to call attention to their location.

When he finally left the area, Miyako and Girochi were relieved.

"Thank God, he's gone now." Girochi whispered.

"You're right about that."

"But where are we going to go?"

"I think I know a place."

Quietly, they left the place. Girochi followed his sister, still terrified and scared. So was Miyako, but she did her best not to show it. Finally they arrived at a house. Miyako knocked.

"Who is it?"

Miyako didn't reply, just continued to knock. Finally a woman opened the door and

"Oh what are you two doing here, where are your parents?"

Miyako told her "Mama and papa were killed by the militia, and they are coming after us. You got to help us, please!" She tried not to cry, but a few drops of tears leaked out of her eyes.

The lady was shocked. "Well… Come on in."

They entered, and she quickly closed all the blinds in the house. It was a one-story small house, so there weren't many.

She started to ask the kids questions. "So please tell me what happened."

"Well…" Miyako tried to explain though her emotional state. "Those militia men came into our house and killed papa first, then they shot mama and tried to kill us, but we hid in the jungle. After we knew that they left, we came here, because we know you're the only person we knew who could help us."

"I don't know if I can help you. My life will be at risk if I do." She worried.

"Please help us, please! We really have nowhere to go to and those evil men are after us."

"Okay, I think I can arrange something with my brother. He lives in Japan."

"Really? That will be wonderful!" Girochi elated like his life depended on it. Well, it did.

"Oh thank you so much!" Miyako said as she hugged the older lady. After she was done, the lady spoke.

"But for now, we got to keep you two hidden. Maybe tomorrow, we can take you two to the church, and Father Sanchez can watch you two. I'll try to have you two gone from this country in no time. It's too risky for you kids to stay here."

"Thanks again Sister Hidelgo. You're the greatest!" Girochi thanked, with tears streaming down his cheeks.

Sister Hidelgo started to cry too. "You're welcome. So you two saw your own parents die?"

"Well… Just dad. We ran into the room, and then we heard a loud bang, I think that one killed mom." Miyako muttered to her.

"Oh Dios mio! Those evil men, thinking they can have a revolution by killing people. Well, just go to my spare room for now and rest." She pointed to her room. "I will make sure that you two will be safe."

They went to the room but they couldn't rest, they just cried nonstop, knowing that their parents were no longer living. Miyako comforted her little brother, who was crying.

"Don't worry Girochi, we will make it, somehow…"


The thoughts of her parents started to affect her during her eulogy. Eventually Miyako broke down and cried.

"Sorry, I can't continue on."

She then left the platform and went to the back, starting to howl. Moments later, Girochi then entered and saw his sister.

"Onee-chan? What's wrong?"

"It's everything, having to deal with two deaths at the same time, plus my other problems. It feels too much for me to handle."

"I understand, but I know that you're a strong sister, and that you will be able to overcome it."

"I don't know Girochi-kun, I don't know."

Girochi came up to her, and hugged her to give her the needed support that she was reluctant to admit.

"We've been through worse, onee-chan, we've been through worse…"


There was still Tsubasa's funeral to take care of. It was done at Kazuki's shrine, where he lived a good part of his life. A small shrine was built to celebrate his life. A photo of him during better days was displayed. His body was already cremated. There were friends and families who stopped by to pay their final wishes and respects to the late Tsubasa Oogami, leaving candles, flowers, cards, small jewelry, card, and other items. Himeko and Chikane were not there, nobody knew where they went, and Kazuki was concerned.

Souma was there, crying his heart out for his late brother, and Makoto was there to comfort him as best as she could. Kazuki was even crying, losing what he felt was his brother.

Miyako and Girochi were not much better, as they were in tears as well.

She still remembers the day she first met Tsubasa, like it was yesterday...


It was in Tokyo and she, along with Girochi, had been living in Tokyo for three years. She was now 15. She was living with Sister Hidalgo's brother, who was a priest for a local cathedral in Shinjuku. He had just moved there from Ota.

One day, he needed some necklaces for gifts, so he went to Kazuki's temple, which was nearby, with Miyako and Girochi. When they were there, Kazuki greeted them.

"Hello, welcome to the Temple of the Sun and Moon. What are you here for?"

"We are here for some necklaces to give as a gift to a few people."

"Really, what type of necklaces are you looking for in particular?"

"One that shows appreciation. We just moved here and these people help us with the moving."

"Oh I see. I take it that you're not a Buddhist or Shinto?"

"No, I'm a Christian, so I'm not too familiar with stuff like that."

Kazuki chuckled. "No problem. I think I got something for you. Tsubasa-san!" He shouted.

"Yeah?" He shouted back.

"Can you get me some of our necklaces?"

"Okay." About a few minutes later, Tsubasa came back with the necklaces in hand, but at the moment he saw Miyako, he stopped. Miyako noticed him as well. It was an instant attraction as the two were fondly gazing each other. Kazuki didn't notice, and neither did the priest and Girochi.

Finally, he came back to reality. "Here are your necklaces, miss." He politely handed her the necklaces while flirting at her.

"Thank you very much," she flirted back with a small smile.

The priest then paid Kazuki, and thanked him. "This is a great gift, I think they will like it. Thank you so much."

"Don't mention it. My name is Oogami-sensei."

"You run this shrine?"

"Yes indeed."

"But you're so young."

Kazuki chuckled. "Well, my parents left for Okinawa last year. They retired and are currently setting up a new shrine down there, so I ended up running it."

During the conversation between the two priests, Miyako struck up a conversation with Tsubasa.

"What is your name?" She asked.

"My name is Oogami Tusbasa. You can call me Tsubasa-san."

"Nice to meet you, Tsubasa-san. My name is Martinez Miyako, and you can call me Miyako-chan."

"Thanks, Miyako-chan. Do you live around here?"

"About three blocks away. Why?"

"I was thinking… Maybe we can hang out sometime."

Miyako giggled and responded, "Of course. I guess you want my number?"

Tsubasa smiled, a rather rare event. "Sure."

He pulled out a piece of paper and grabbed a pen from the desk. She wrote it down with a note a bottom that said, "Call me after 6 PM."

Finally, the two priests wrapped up their conversation.

"Thanks again. I'll be looking forward to seeing you again." The priest smiled.

"Same here. Have a good day." Kazuki replied.

Sister Miyako had to leave with her brother and the priest, but on the way out she looked back at Tsubasa, who was still smiling. She will never forget that day as long as she lives.

Kazuki saw him there smiling. This totally surprised Kazuki because Tsubasa was not the smiling type. Then he figured it out and grinned in return.

"So I see that something, or better yet someone, caught your eye?"

Tsubasa looked at him and blushed, he didn't have to say a word. Kazuki chuckled and told him, "Come on, let's get back to work. You can tell me when we have dinner."


After the small funeral for Tsubasa was over, Kazuki then asked Souma where Himeko and Chikane were.

"They haven't been here since early this morning, and it's getting late. Where are those two?"

"I have a hunch where those two could be."

"Really? Where?"

About thirty minutes later, they were at the Shinjuku subway, near a vending machine. Himeko and Chikane were sitting there, still dealing with the loss of Hana.

"Hey, were you two here all this time?" Kazuki asked.

"Well, we walked around for a bit, then we decided to come here." Himeko informed.

"Why didn't you come back?" Kazuki asked.

"Because we didn't know if we would see some of the same people for Tsubasa-san's service." Chikane responded back. "And Sister Miyako would be there."

"She was, but she's back at home. I talked her out of staying at my place. Come on, let's get back."

"Why?" Chikane asked. "We've been enough trouble for you."

Kazuki came up to Chikane and touched her on her shoulders to reassure her. "Not really, but you'll be more trouble for me if you run away. There won't be any good in running away. The police might find you and send you two back to Mahoroba, or those thugs will find you. If you stay with me, at least I can help protect you two. You will need all the help you can get."

"Yeah, and we will do our best to protect you two, you can guarantee on that." Souma added.

"They're right. We have a better chance staying with them than going back to the streets." Himeko advised Chikane.

Chikane felt a little bit defeated and accepted to return back. "I guess you two are right. Let's head back home."

The four left the subway and returned back home. They talked and watched TV together, but the two deaths were still heavy on everyone's minds.


When Miyako went back to her apartment, she went straight to the kitchen to make some tea.

Meanwhile, her brother saw the letter on the living room table and read it. He was stunned about her forced departure. "What… Why didn't you tell me about this?"

Puzzled, Miyako came out of the kitchen, and asked, "What are you talking about."

"This!" He showed her the letter. Silently, she took a deep breath and responded, "I didn't want you to worry about it. Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it."

"Are you crazy? I am worried about it! I don't want you to go back, you're the only sister I have."

"I know that, but if it's God's will, I'll be able to stay here in Tokyo."

"But Sis-."

"Please Giro-kun, let's not talk about it anymore. Do you want some tea?"

Girochi knew his sister well enough not to argue over about it. Her strong-willed nature can lead to stubbornness. Girochi however wasn't going to let his sister do it all by herself.


For the rest of the week, Miyako carried on like the deportation situation wasn't affecting her, but inside the stress was really breaking her. She can't remember a point in her life that she felt so powerless. Back at her apartment, Miyako would go home and pray to God for him to reconsider. Sometimes the praying sessions would last for hours.

"Please God, if it's in your will, don't send me back to Peru. I'm very afraid to go back there, they might kill me, now that they run the country." She begged as she wept. "I don't know if I will live once they find out that I'm back. I seriously doubt anyone can help me there. I'm terrified, Lord!"

During that time, she wasn't eating or sleeping much, the stress was really getting to her. She lost a bit of weight, and she came to the cathedral tired. She didn't really notice much about her appearance; however, people in her community noticed something different about her.

During lunch, one of her fellow nuns asked about her. "What's going on Sister Miyako?"

"Nothing, really nothing."

"I don't know about that. You don't seem to be yourself."

"It's not really a big issue. I can handle it myself, but thanks for asking." Then she went on to eat her lunch. The cathedral director thought otherwise, and wanted to do a background investigation to see what was really going on.

Sister Miyako sat, and ate her lunch alone, thinking about the time she left the country.


Sister Hidalgo was able to arrange a truck to pick them up. Under a disguise, the truck was a moving truck, and two guys placed two wooden crates in the truck. The two crates contained Miyako and Girochi seperately. The plan was to drive the truck all the way to Quito, Equador; as the two countries were not friendly to each other. That gave the two kids protection against the new party rising from the coup.

Their crates were all the way at the back. There were three rows of crates in the truck and the two siblings hid in the middle, thinking that was the least likely spot they would look. They were in virtual darkness with only a bottle of water along with a few snacks and a sandwich. They spoke to each other in order to pass time and calm themselves, but it did little to calm their fears of being caught. It was a scary ordeal, especially for a couple of young kids who had the unfortunate task of facing this type of situation.

Their hearts beat rapidly in terror every time they reached a checkpoint. The army, who were aligned with the militia, had various checkpoints throughout the country.

At one checkpoint, Miyako and Girochi came close to being detected, as the army men opened up the crates that were on top of them. They could hear the men talking about how it would be a thrill to find them and have them killed. It didn't make things feel any easier for Miyako.

While during the trip, she started to pray to God. After the prayer, she felt a wonderful feeing in her body, like a sense of reassurance. She felt that everything was going to be all right.

Finally they arrived at Quito. There was man who they met and gave them fake passports so they could get on the plane without any problems. Finally, they got to the airport and took a direct flight to Tokyo. They were finally safe. On the flight, Miyako thought about Sister Hidalgo and her prayer to God, how those two saved her life. It was from that point on that she decided to devote her life to God and the be a part of the Catholic church.


She tried to talk to her boss, her Visa representative, but no one could help her out with her situation. She felt like it was time to accept her fate.

Then one day, Girochi came over to her apartment.

"Hey sis, how are you doing?"

"Could be better, what's up?"

"I got some good news for you." Girochi grinned.


"Yeah. Here, read this letter."

He handed her the letter and she read it out loud.

"Dear Martinez-san, we would like to inform you that your planned deportation to Peru has been aborted. Due to political situations, you will not have to go back. Instead, you are permitted to reside in this country. Your visa has been extended for an additional five years due to being offered political asylum."

She instantly started to cry. "Thank you God! Thank you."

"You should also thank my police chief as well."


"I told him your situation and since he's good friends with one of the members of the Immigration Bureau, he was able to halt the process."

"Wow, I'm amazed."

"Don't be. You see, you can't do everything by yourself, sometimes you need to ask for help. Jesus didn't do everything by himself, he had his twelve disciples to help him out.

"That's true. Thanks a lot."

"No problem." Girochi headed to his favorite place in her apartment – the kitchen.

Miyako looked up to thank God. "God, you work in mysterious ways, but I would like to thank you for using my brother to teach me an important lesson."

Then she looked at the last picture that she and Girochi took while living in Peru on top of the kitchen counter. She grinned, knowing her brother wasn't so 'dumb' after all. She took a deep breath and looked up with that smile still on her face. "We still got each other and I thank you for that, Lord."


Chapter 20

Title: Sweets For My Sweetie

[Author's notes: I didn't know whether to write this chapter before or after 'Judgement Night', so I asked my beta-reader and she told me to do it BEFORE, but I read it wrong and thought she meant AFTER. Thus, that's why it sounds rather out-of-place compared to the rest of the story.]

It was Friday, February 11th. Three days before Valentine\'s Day, and the Japanese do celebrate Valentine\'s Day, especially the girls. It\'s a Japanese tradition for a girl or a woman to give chocolates and candies to a boy or a man. However, the Japanese also celebrate \'White Day\', which occurs exactly a month after Valentine\'s day, March 14th, where the boy/man gives gifts to the girl/woman.

For Himeko and Chikane, there is one big problem with that…


On that day, Himeko and Makoto were watching TV in the living room, when Makoto realized that Valentine\'s Day was coming soon after seeing a commercial.

\"Valentine\'s Day is only two days away, and I haven\'t gotten Souma-kun anything!\" Makoto panicked.

Himeko came to that realization as well, \"And I haven\'t gotten anything for Chikane-chan. Maybe we should get some chocolates together.\"

\"Yeah, why not?\"

\"But where?\" Himeko shrugged. \"I\'m still not totally familiar with this area.\"

\"Why don\'t we go to Pritemps down at Ginza?\" Makoto chimed.

\"Pritemps? Isn\'t that a department store? And isn\'t Ginza an expensive area.\"

\"Yeah! However, it\'s one of the places to be during Valentine\'s week, they have so much going on during Valentine\'s week, since a lot of women shop in that area. That\'s why I love Tokyo so much, there\'s so much to do here!\"

Himeko thought about it for a bit, \"I guess it wouldn\'t hurt a bit. Why not?\" She smiled.

\"Great! Tomorrow, we will go there in the afternoon, and get some chocolates and candies from there.\"

\"What time are we going to leave the house?\" Himeko asked.

\"Around noon. So you better be up, sleepy head!\" Makoto joked as she playfully knocked on Himeko\'s head.

Himeko giggled, \"Okay, I will.\"


Chikane was talking to Izumi during their Music club meeting.

\"So what are you going to get for your girlfriend?\"

\"Huh?\" Chikane asked rather dumbfounded.

\"Don\'t you know Valentine\'s Days is coming up this Monday?\"

\"No, but now that I think about it, I do need to get her something.\"

\"You have to get her some chocolates, after all you\'re a girl.\" Izumi informed her.

\"Yeah, but she\'s a girl too, so what if she gets me something?\" Chikane shrugged.

\"I don\'t know, but you have to get her some chocolates. It\'s tradition.\"

\"Just because it\'s tradition, doesn\'t mean I have to do it.\"

\"You\'re right about that, but do you want to risk it, and have Hime-chan crying because you didn\'t get her some chocolates?\" Izumi said looking questionably at Chikane.

After she said that, Chikane paused for a bit and thought about it. An image of her and Himeko appeared in her head.

\"Hey Chikane-chan, did you get me some chocolates?\"

\"No, I didn\'t?\"

An upset face appeared on Himeko\'s face. \"Why?\"

\"Because I thought that it wasn\'t necessary?\"

\"Wasn\'t necessary? Is that what you think our love is? Unnecessary?\" Then Himeko started to cry, \"You don\'t love me anymore – BOO HOO HOO HOO.\" And she ran away crying. Chikane was standing there, flabbergasted.

Chikane quickly came out of her reverie, and told Izumi, \"I need to get her some chocolates!\"

\"I told you so. I knew you would come to your senses.\"

\"But where?\"

\"Why not Takashimaya? They have a great chocolate shop in the basement.\"

\"That might work. They seem to have a great selection of chocolates.\"

\"Yep. I know that you will impress Himeko-chan a lot with those chocolates. She will be so happy, she will kiss you all over your face.\"

Chikane blushed for a bit, thinking about Himeko kissing her. \"That would be great.\"

\"It sure would, so why don\'t you go tomorrow and get some?\"

\"I don\'t see why not.\" Chikane shrugged.



The next day it was late morning. Himeko was doing her homework while waiting for Makoto to call her back, when Chikane entered into their bedroom.

\"What\'s up baby?\"

\"Um… Nothing?\"

\"Nothing? It must be something, for I didn\'t expect to see you with the phone next to you.\"

\"Well I\'m waiting for a call.\"


\"Makoto-chan. We are going shopping.\"


\"For… For something to get for her boyfriend, since Valentine\'s Day is coming.\"

Chikane chuckled. \"Okay, that\'s cool. Well I hope you two have fun, I\'m heading out myself, going to play some tennis.\" And she left the room.

Himeko let out a breath of relief. She went back to doing her homework. About twenty minutes later, Makoto called.

\"Hey Hime-chan, I\'m should be there in about fifteen minutes, so get ready.\"

\"Okay, I\'ll get ready.\"

Himeko quickly got herself dressed, and waited for Makoto. While waiting for her, she decided to draw hearts and a stylish \'Happy Valentine\'s Day!\' lettering on a piece of paper.

Makoto finally arrived, walking with her usual perky bounce while being her usual chirpy self.

\"Hey there Hime-chan, are you ready?\"

\"Yep! I\'m so excited about this!\"

\"Same here. The next bus comes in about ten minutes, so we better get our butts to the bus stop.\"


The two left the house, making a mad dash to the bus stop. They barely made it. While on the bus, Himeko drew some more on the paper. Makoto noticed and made a request.

\"Hey Hime-chan, can you draw me a \'Happy Valentine\'s Day\' art piece for me?\"

\"Why don\'t you take this one?\" She said showing the one she made earlier.

\"Oh thank you! Souma-kun will love it.\"

Himeko chuckled. \"It would be great to see him happy.\"

\"I know, he hasn\'t been in a good mood lately. How about Chikane-chan?\"

\"I made something for her already.\" Himeko showed Makoto the colored art she did for her.

\"I think she will love it.\"

\"I think so too.\"

Then Himeko brought up something very important that she just realized.



\"Ano… How can I get the chocolates without them suspecting that it\'s a girl?\" she asked with bit of nervousness in her voice.

Makoto thought a bit, then an idea came into her head.

\"Tell them it\'s a tomo-choco. You know, chocolate for your friends. That way they won\'t know that it\'s for a female partner, they\'ll just think it\'s for a female friend. It\'s all the rage now, most girls get chocolates for their female friends.\"

Himeko thought about Makoto\'s suggestion, and liked it. She relaxed and thanked her friend, \"Thanks a lot, it makes things easier for me.\"

\"I know, right?\" Makoto chuckled.

They arrived at the Ginza district of Chuo an hour later. When they got there, they started walking around, checking out the various stores. During their walk, Himeko spotted a small necklace displayed in the front of an antique store.

\"Hey Mako-chan, look!\"

\"What is it?\"

\"It\'s a cute necklace, look!\"

Makoto looked at the necklace and shrugged. \"Do you want it?\"

\"Yeah! It\'s pretty!\" she exclaimed like an excited child.

\"It\'s just an ordinary pink shell to me, but if you want it then you should get it.\"

\"I sure do! It reminds me of a beautiful pink shell I once found in a beach back in Mahoroba.\"

\"Well okay then, let\'s go ahead and get it.\"

They went in the store clerk and asked for the necklace. The clerk told them, \"The necklace cost about 3,000 yen.\"

\"I\'ll take it!\" Himeko impulsively replied. She really didn\'t care about the price, she was going to get it, no matter what.

Makoto grinned a bit, seeing how happy Himeko was about getting the necklace. \"I think Chikane-chan will like it.\"

The store clerk looked at Himeko strangely.


Before Himeko could say a word, Makoto spoke for her.

\"It\'s for her friend\'s birthday coming up. She likes pink seashells.\"

The clerk then chuckled, \"Oh okay! Well that would be a nice gift for her.\"

\"… Thanks.\" Himeko replied nervously.

She paid for the necklace, and quickly left the store, feeling a bit embarrassed about how she came close to being found out that the gift was for her partner.

\"That was close…\" Himeko sighed in relief.

\"Yeah, it sure was,\" Makoto agreed. \"I wish you didn\'t have to go through so much trouble just to get something for Chikane-chan.\"

\"Maybe in the future, it won\'t be such a big deal, maybe…\" Himeko sulked.

\"Come on Hime-chan, the clerk didn\'t find out and the future isn\'t here yet. Let\'s not worry so much about it, and get some chocolates for our partners!\"

Himeko smiled, \"You\'re right.\"


Chikane came back from a tennis game she had with a fellow classmate. She had picked up tennis recently, enjoying the fast-past movement of the sport, and it wasn\'t usually a team sport so she didn\'t have to deal with others.

When she came back, she saw that everyone was gone, except for Souma. Feeling a bit wary about him, she tensely asked him a question.

\"So Himeko and Mako-chan are gone?\"

\"Yep. They\'re gone. They didn\'t tell me where they went.\" He responded in the same manner. Things have eased up since that eventful day, as Kazuki somehow managed to wrangle those two hotheads into a truce, but there were still some uneasiness between the feuding teens.

Also, he wasn\'t stupid. He suspected that they went to get something for Valentine\'s Day. It\'s not new for Souma since they\'ve been dating for over three years.

\"Well, I got to go and get something for Himeko.\"

She was about to head out of the door when Souma replied, \"Then you\'re going to need me to come with you.\"

Chikane turned around, and looked at him with a bit of disdain. \"I don\'t need a babysitter, especially one like you. I can handle myself very well, thank you.\"

\"Not really. You\'re not the most popular person in this area, and you got your share of enemies. You\'re going to need all the backup you can get. Plus, do you want to wait for the bus to pick you up? It\'s a busy day, so it will take you some time to get anything at all.\"

Chikane thought about it for a bit, she can at least use the ride. It sure beats riding the bus.

\"I guess I have no choice, do I?\"

Souma smirked at her, \"Not really.\"

She finally surrendered and reluctantly stated, \"Okay, let me get my money, and let\'s get going.\"

Just before she was about to grab the money, she heard her stomach grumbling.

\"Hungry Chikane-chan?\" Souma asked.

\"Yeah, let\'s get something to eat first.\"

\"Why don\'t we just pick up something a LA Pizza?\"

\"That\'s fine with me. The sooner, the better, I\'m starving.\"

Souma handed her an extra helmet, and they headed out of the door.


At the other end of Shinjuku, Souma and Chikane went to pick up a quick bite at LA Pizza. The two were outside, sitting on a bench, eating their lunch. It was quiet in the beginning, since both were suspicious of the other. To break the tension, Souma spoke up.

\"Did you see Yokozuna Asashoryu in the tournament last month?\"

\"No.\" Chikane simply responded.

\"Man, he went 15-0 in the tournament!\"



It was then that Chikane noticed something when she inadvertently looked down on the ground. It was a necklace, with a pink shell on it. She picked it up and examined it a bit. The chain on it was broken.

\"Wow, it looks pretty.\" He said.

\"It sure does.\" Chikane replied. \"Maybe this would be a nice gift for Chikane, in addition to the chocolates.\"

\"It sure will.\" Souma suggested.

\"Then maybe we should go and get this thing fixed. There\'s a jewelry store two blocks away from here, right?\"

\"Yeah, but you\'re better off going to the one about four blocks from here, it\'s cheaper.\" Souma advised.

\"That\'s sounds much better to me. Let\'s do that after we finish.\"

After their lunch, they headed to the jewelry store. Along the way, they bumped into Chikane\'s old friend…

\"Well hello there Miya-sama!\" Corona said sarcastically.

\"What the hell are you doing here?\" Chikane growled.

\"Yeah, don\'t you know the red-light district is not around here?\" Souma joked and Chikane lightly laughed at it as well, but Corona didn\'t find it amusing.

\"Shut up you two! I\'m here because there\'s a talent show going on here, and I\'m gonna win it!\"

\"That\'s if the talent show also judges on swallowing,\" Chikane wisecracked and Souma laughed. Corona got livid.

\"Laugh all you want, I will win it!\" she vowed.

\"If you don\'t have to stand for the contest,\" Chikane joked.

Corona spat back, \"Chikane-san, I wouldn\'t be speaking, you\'re not a saint either!\"

\"I know, but I never had to open my legs for a few yen!\"

\"No, but I bet you\'ll be willing to put your head between Blondie\'s legs for free, Fish Eater!\"

Chikane quickly turned mad, and scowled, \"You better take that back, bitch!\"

\"Make me.\" She smugly retorted while coming up close to Chikane. She was about to find out that it was a big mistake, as Chikane cocked back her right arm in readiness to deliver her a knockout blow. Souma quickly held her back. Chikane struggled from Souma\'s grasp, but he was able to calm her down.

\"Chikane-chan, let it go, she\'s not worth it.\" He said while trying his best to convince her to be the better person and just walk away.

Chikane paused for a bit and then took a deep breath. She steely gazed at her nemesis and reluctantly agreed, \"You\'re right.\"

Corona smirked once again, \"Well, no need to be around two pieces of trash, I\'m on my way.\"

\"Make sure that you\'re not wearing clear heels when you get there. You know what type of girls are associated with clear heels, right?\" He said as he pointed to the high-heels that she was wearing. The two started to laugh as Corona was blushing in embarrassment. The two just kept on laughing and Corona having enough of their chaffing, left.

When they got done laughing, Souma looked at Chikane, \"Let\'s get that chain fixed so we can get those chocolates.\"

\"Yeah, I don\'t want to run into any more people, especially ones that come with whiskers and a tail.\"


\"Yep. She\'s the last person I want to meet.\" Chikane said with a touch of anger.

\"Yeah, let\'s get going then!\"

Without a moment to spare, the two left the area.


Meanwhile, at Harajuku, Himeko and Makoto finally arrived at Printemps. The building outside wasn\'t so impressive, but when they went inside, it was a different story.

\"Wow! This one is better than the Printemps back in Mahoroba. Oba-san loves to shop there.\"

\"Of course it is, this is Tokyo! We get the best of the best, Hime-chan! Let\'s go downstairs, that\'s where they usually sell their candies.\"

When they got the second level of the basement, they were surprised to see how many people were down there. Himeko was amazed at how big it was.

\"There\'re so many people here. I hope we don\'t have to stand too long in line.\"

\"I agree, let\'s get something quick.\"

They started to look at all the chocolates and candies displayed on the counter. Himeko was in awe. If she could, she\'d buy all the sweets in the store. During her browsing, Himeko ran into one that was amusing and appropriate for Chikane. It was a chocolate heart-shaped with decorative frostings of musical instruments on top of it. It was almost as big as a twelve-inch pizza.

\"Mako-chan, I think I found one for Chikane-chan.\"

\"Really?\" Himeko nodded and Makoto looked at it. \"Yeah! That would be perfect for Chikane-san.\"

\"Great! I\'ll get it.\" Himeko then tried to get one of the store clerk\'s attention. \"Excuse me ma\'am, but can you get this piece of chocolate for me?\"

\"Why sure.\" She grabbed the chocolate and informed Himeko, \"You know you can have it customized so that you can have personalized writing?\"

\"Really?\" Himeko giddied.

\"Certainly. Who would you like to make it out to, and what do you want it to say?\"

Himeko hesitated a bit, then she told her, \"I would like to make it out to Chikane-chan, and it should say, \"No one can play a melody to me like you can.\"

The store clerk looked at her like she hit her head on a wall.

\"… Chikane-chan?\"

Himeko was starting to feel nervous. Other customers who were nearby also heard and they gave her questioning looks. Makoto reassured her, \"It\'s okay Hime-chan.\"

Himeko felt a bit better and responded, \"… Yeah.\"

Then Makoto told the worker, \"Chikane-chan\'s her best friend.\"

\"Sure she is…\" the employee muttered under her breath. She then placed the chocolate under a machine that writes the words on the chocolate using a thin frosting.

Himeko was starting to feel very uncomfortable. Makoto had enough.

\"Hey, why don\'t you just mind your business?\" she spat at the nosy customers. \"Can\'t you see she\'s getting some chocolates for her best friend? I\'m sure she\'s not the only one that\'s doing it!\" The customers had nothing to respond back so they looked away in embarrassment and shame.

Finally the lady handed over the chocolate to Himeko. \"You can go down there and have it gift wrapped.\"

\"Thank you very much.\" The two girls left that area and went to another wrapping section further down. Over there they saw a container full of small bike-shaped chocolate candies. Makoto thought it would be perfect for Souma.

\"Ooooh oooh! Souma-kun would love this.\"

Himeko took a look and agreed with her. \"Absolutely, he loves bikes.\"

\"He sure does. He\'s trying to teach me how to ride his.\"

\"Do you want to learn?\"

\"Yeah! It\'s awesome, do you want to learn?\" Makoto asked.

The thought of her riding a motorcycle actually scared her. \"Uh… No, but thanks for the offer.\"

\"No problem. I\'m sure Souma-kun would be happy to teach you.\"

Then another store clerk showed up. \"How can I be of assistance?\"

\"Yeah, I\'m interested in some of those chocolate candies that look like bikes.\"

\"Yeah, they\'re quite popular here. How much do you want?\"

\"About three scoopfuls of those.\"

\"Okay, is there anything else?\"

\"Yes, could you please put it in a box where I can have it written, \'To Souma-kun, thanks for being the best boyfriend in the world for three years, Makoto.\"

The clerk smiled, \"Sure.\"

As the clerk left, Makoto faced Himkeo and beamed with a huge smile. \"I know Souma-kun will love it!\"

\"I think he will Mako-chan!\" Himeko supported.

A minute later, the clerk came back with the box full of chocolates.

\"Here you go ma\'am. You can go pay at the cashier up front.\"

Now that they got their candies, they headed back home excited about how their partners would react.


Chikane looked for a chocolate that she thought would make Himeko happy and Souma looked along with her.

\"Well she loves Sanrio, so you should get her a Hello Kitty one.\" Souma suggested.

Chikane shrugged. \"Yeah, why not.\"

Chikane started looking for a Hello Kitty Valentine\'s chocolate and found one. It was Hello Kitty painting on an art board. Chikane had a genuine grin on her face. She was very happy to find it.

\"I think I got the perfect chocolate.\"

Chikane had the woman pick it up.

\"Who would you like to make this out to?\"

\"To Himeko-chan, the love of my life.\"

\"What?\" The clerk said with a disdainful look on her face.

\"You heard me, woman! This is Shinjuku for God\'s sake, just do as I say or I\'ll get management on you. Got it?\" She threatened.

\"...O-O-Okay ma\'am,\" she stuttered in fear and left.

Souma was surprised a bit at first, then he teased Chikane about it, \"You would make a fine customer service rep.\"

Chikane coldly looked at him and told him, \"Shut up.\" Souma just chuckled.

The lady came back with the chocolate in a box, made out to Himeko. Chikane smile while the clerk had a distasteful look.

\"Here\'s your chocolate.\" She said rather coldly and dropped the box. Chikane was about to complain about her attitude, but Souma put his hand on her shoulder and signaled her to let it go. When they were away from the clerk, Souma had a short word with Chikane.

\"Chikane-chan, there\'s no need to let her get to you. You got to let it slide.\"

\"You of all people giving me anger management lessons, how ironic?\"

Souma sighed, \"Come on now, this is not San Francisco. Not everyone is comfortable around gay people, even though this is Shinjuku.\"

Chikane sulked a bit and sighed, \"You\'re right. I just wish it wasn\'t true…\"

\"Ah don\'t worry about it, let\'s go back home, I think we\'ve done enough for today.\"

\"I totally agree.\"

The pair got on the motorcycle and headed straight home. Chikane was able to get over her anger and was delighted to find a chocolate for her partner.


Finally Himeko and Makoto got back to the house. She was excited about her gifts. \"I can\'t wait to give them to Chikane-chan! I know she will love them!\"

\"I hope so, you paid a pretty penny for them.\"

\"And so did you.\"

\"Yeah, tell me about it…\"

Kazuki came back from the temple to get something when he saw the two.

\"Hello ladies, came back from your Valentine\'s Day shopping?\"

\"Yep!\" Himeko chimed.

\"We sure did. We got some great stuff for our partners. I think they will like it!\" Makoto added.

\"Well that\'s very good to hear. So where did you two go?\"

\"We went to Printemps to get some chocolates.\" Makoto informed.

\"Printemps! That\'s quite an expensive place.\"

\"Yeah, but we wanted to get the best for Souma and Chikane.\"

Kazuki drew a small smile on his face. \"That\'s quite romantic of you two.\" Then he saw the small box containing the pink seashell necklace.

\"So is that the chocolate inside, Kurusugawa-san?\" he asked pointing to the box.

\"This? No, this holds a necklace I saw at an antique shop. I really like it, so I got it for Chikane-chan.\"

Kazuki smiled, \"That\'s very sweet of you. You really do love her?\"

Himeko blushed, \"She the most important person in my life.\"

\"Hey Hime-chan, let\'s put them away before they come.\" Makoto warned.


They went into Himeko\'s room and put the chocolates and jewelry in the closet. A few minutes later, Chikane and Souma walked in and saw Himeko, Makoto, and Kazuki.

\"Hello everyone. How are all of you doing?\" Souma greeted.

\"Great! Where did you two go?\" Himeko asked.

\"We went to Takashimaya to get you this:\" Chikane then pulled out the box from the bag and opened it. Himeko went giddy the moment she saw the chocolate.

\"It\'s Hello Kitty! I love Hello Kitty. Thank you!\"

Chikane had a wide smile on her face, which was a rare sight to see from the ever-grumpy girl. \"I\'m glad you like it.\"

\"Like it? I LOVE it!\" Himeko elated.

She gladly grabbed the box from Chikane and then lovingly hugged her partner. She squeezed her as tight as she could.

\"That was so sweet of you.\"

\"Thanks…\" Chikane replied while she was blushing, ignoring the painful squeeze.

\"Now let me get you my gifts.\" Himeko, along with Makoto, quickly went to her room and came out with her and Makoto\'s gifts. She handed the chocolate one first.

\"It\'s for you, I hope you like it.\"

Chikane opened the box and grinned, \"Oh thank you Himeko!\"

Himeko blushed, \"I thought you would like it, since you like music so much.\"

Chikane smiled even more, \"I sure do, but do you know what I like more?\"

Himeko gleamed, she knew the answer. \"What?\"

Chikane put the box to the side and told her, \"You.\" Then she gave Himeko a warm, lovingly hug, not as tight as to what Himeko gave her. Himeko was blushing even more. Kazuki, Souma and Makoto were happily smiling as well.

Then it was Makoto\'s turn. \"Hey honey, I got you some chocolates as well.\"

\"You better,\" Souma jibed. Makoto playfully hit him on his shoulder. \"Ouch!\"

\"Some romantic you are…\" Makoto jokingly derided and playfully pouted.

\"Oh come on baby, at least let me see the gift.\"

Makoto smirked and handed it to him. He opened it and chuckled when he saw the mini bicycle chocolates. He was very happy with the gift.

\"Thank you so much,\" he said as he hugged her and kissed her on her forehead.

\"Well, it\'s very wonderful to see so much love in this room. I think Aizen-Myoo would be proud.\" Kazuki gleamed with a rare beam on his face.

Himeko looked at him was a puzzling look, \"Who?\"

Kazuki then explained to the Christian, \"Aizen-Myoo is the kami of love.\"

\"Oh okay. Thanks for the gift, it was wonderful, Chikane-chan!\" Himeko said.

\"Not as wonderful as this…\" Chikane pulled out a small box from her jeans pocket and opened the box. It was the pink seashell necklace. Himeko and Makoto were in shock. Himeko didn\'t say anything for a bit, so naturally Chikane was worried.

\"What\'s wrong Himeko?\"

\"W…w…well it looks similar to what I got for you.\"

\"Very similar…\" Makoto agreeing.

\"What do you mean?\" Chikane asked.

Himeko grabbed her purse and pulled out a small box from it. She opened it and showed the pink seashell necklace to Chikane. Everybody in the room was shocked to see the matching necklaces. Now it was Chikane\'s turn to be speechless. It took quite a while for Chikane to speak.

\"Are you kidding me?\"

\"I know, amazing, isn\'t it?\" Himeko wondered.

\"I don\'t think amazing is the word.\" Makoto injected.

\"Nor do I.\" Kazuki agreed.

\"How about \'fate\'?\" Souma suggested.

Kazuki looked at him and replied, \"It could be…it could be.\"

Then Himeko brought up somthing, \"Do you know what this means?\"

\"No?\" Chikane responded in a puzzled look.

\"It means that we were meant to be together. Like Ruth and Naomi in the Bible.\"

Chikane immediately smiled after that, remembering that chilly night in November when Himeko confessed her love to her.

\"Ruth and Naomi?\" Souma questioned. Himeko was about to answer but Kazuki surprisingly replied.

\"There\'s a Bible story about a woman name Ruth who fell in love with another woman named Naomi and confessed it to her.\"

Souma looked at him like he was crazy. \"If that\'s so, then why do Christians hate gay people?\"

\"Some don\'t believe that they were lovers, but if you read it yourself, you would strongly believe as well. I\'ll tell you more another time.\"

At first, Chikane was puzzled by her statement, but the more she thought about it, the more she can see Himeko\'s point.

Finally, she smiled back. \"We certainly are…we certainly are.\" And she hugged her partner. Valentine\'s Day proved to be a very special day for the two mikos.


Chapter 21

Title: Facing the Music

[Author's notes: I'm taking a hiatus from the story for at least nine months, so I can work on other things and also to plan for the final part of this story. Thank you very much.]

It was near the end of February, yet the effects of Hana's death were still heavy in everyone's minds. His death left a gap not only in the homeless community, but also in everyone's hearts. It also left a void in the leadership of the girl's, but that was resolved when Keroshi took his spot. He was always Hana's right-hand man… or woman if you want to say that…

One of his first duties was to visit Himeko, to give her one of the last pictures of her and Hana together. While holding on to his calm, Keroshi went to the temple. Himeko was busy watering the indoor plants. She usually talks to the plants.

"Hello Mr. Lotus, how are you doing? Here's your water for you." Like a happy child, she jubilantly poured the water from the water sprout.

She heard a knock on the door. She opened it and saw a glum Keroshi, hanging his head down low.

"Hi Keroshi-chan, how are you doing?"

"Fine Hime-chan, even though I'm still trying to adjust being the leader, I don't know if I'll ever be as good as Hana-sempai."

A small frown appeared on Himeko's face, "Don't say that. I'm sure you will make a great leader. Just don't doubt yourself." Himeko imparted some words of wisdom for Keroshi, as she was talking from her own experience.

"Yeah, Hana-sempai wouldn't want that. Anyhow, I just came here to give you something."

"Really, what is it?"

Keroshi pulled out a picture of her and Chikane with Hana. He handed it to her.

"This. One of the pictures taken during the New Year's party."

Himeko looked at it and then she started to tear up. "Thanks…"

Keroshi started to cry as well. "It was in my flash card and I thought you would want it."

Himeko hung her head down low. "I know… It still hurts me as well."

"He was always fond of you. He told me once that you were the sweetest and purist person he ever met."

Himeko looked at him with a naïve yet questioning look, "What does he mean by that?"

"Well, he told me that he thought that you were the perfect example of what a Christian should be. He said that Jesus is probably proud of you."

Himeko didn't really know if she should be flattered, since she didn't have very high opinions of herself. "I don't know about that. I don't think Jesus would see me as a model of what a Christian should be."

"Well, I'm not a Christian, but I do remember Hana-chan saying that Christians should be kind and caring, and you certainly are both. In fact, Hana-chan once said that he wish he could be more like you."

Himeko blushed, "Really?"

Keroshi nodded, "True indeed."

A small smile grew on her face, "Thanks for telling me that, it makes me feel better. I believe that if you try to be like Jesus, then you become more like Him naturally. Of course, all this comes from faith. You can never be like Him without it."

"I see. I think your kindness and caring creed had a big effect on him as well. He used to be rough on us, but after he started to be around you, he became more compassionate." Keroshi noted. Then he looked at the time on his cell phone and saw it was getting late. Keroshi then gave her his prepaid cell number. "Look if you need to get in touch with me, here's the number."

Then he headed out the door, "Remember, if you need anything else, don't be afraid to call me."


Himeko took a look at the picture and reminisced about the times she had with Hana. Then she said to herself, "I hope to see you in heaven."


Later on during the day, Kazuki stopped by at the mikos' room. He was observing the two girls. There was Himeko on her side of the room, dancing and singing to some music she was listening on her iPod like a child in play. Then there was Chikane, sitting in her desk and reading a book studiously. The two sides of the room also told a different story. On Himeko's side, there were paintings, drawings, and posters all over the wall. It was just like when she was living in a tent. There were also clothes all over the floor. On Chikane's side, the bed was neatly made up, the floor was spotless, and her desk was clean and organized.

Kazuki couldn't see how those two, so opposite from each other, could be a couple. Nevertheless, he was happy that they are together.

Kazuki knocked on the door frame to get Chikane's attention. "Himemiya-san?"

Chikane turned around and asked, "Yes Oogami-sensei, what's up."

"My friend at the Senjuki Temple wants you to play a couple of tunes at their teahouse."

Chikane eyes and ears perked when she heard that, "Really?" Himeko had took off the headphones and listened in to the conversation.

"Yes. He is willing to pay you, so this will not be a wasted effort."

She drew a smile on her face, "That's great, when is it?"

"Next Saturday in the morning and early afternoon, would that be a problem?"

"Absolutely not, I'll be there." Chikane said.

"Great. I'll give him the good news. He is very much looking forward to this." He left the room.

Himeko then congratulate Chikane. "See, people admire your skills! This is so great!"

"Yeah, it sure is."

"Maybe we should celebrate it at the arcade. I'll pay for the games."

Chikane smiled, "Thanks, but you don't have to do that. However, I do want to go to the arcade. I hope Eiji-san is over there, so I can kick his ass on King of Fighters 2003!"

Himeko chuckled, "Well, if he's not there, do you mind playing with me on 'Dance Dance Revolution Extreme?'

As they got their coats on, Chikane kindly replied, "Of course not."


Next day, it was noon and Corona came over to see Chikane. She was far from being a welcomed guest when Chikane growled after seeing her. Himeko was standing right beside her.

"What the hell do you want?" Chikane spat, forgoing any greetings, which is very untypical and rude in Japanese culture, but she was beyond caring for formalities when it comes to Corona. Not even Nekoko brought this level of ire out of her.

Ignoring her furor, Corona simply replied, "It's nice to meet you too, Miya-sama. And I see that Blondie is with you as well."

"My name is Himeko, not Blondie." Himeko informed her in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Whatever Ms. Softie Cream Puff," Corona dismissively replied.

Chikane quickly grabbed her by her collar and gritted. "You better apologize to Himeko right now, or I'm gonna shove this fist down your throat."

She had her right fist right near Corona's face as Corona panicked in fear.

"Chikane-chan stop it!" Himeko screamed. Chikane let Corona go and Corona slowly recovered her nerves.

"Okay! Okay!" Corona huffed, then she apologized to Himeko. "I'm sorry for calling you Ms. Softie Cream Puff and Blondie."

"Apology accepted." Himeko replied with a bow.

"You know that you're the last person I want to see." Chikane growled once again.

"I know, I know, but I bet that will change after I tell you this."

Hands on her hips, Chikane asked. "What do actually have to tell me that will make me not think that you're a delusional, selfish, annoying, backstabbing, whoring bitch?

Corono tried her best to hide her anger, but it failed as her face turned a bit red. "I got something that you've wanted for a long time." She pulled out a wad of cash and handed it over to Chikane.

"Here's 5,000 yen. This is for some of the money I stole when we lived in the apartment." Chikane was surprised. She looked it over and saw it was legit. "And there's more at my new place, about 10,000 yen more."

Chikane was surprised. "Okay, bring it back here by tomorrow."

"Are you kidding me? I'm not walking anywhere with 10,000 yen in my pocket! It was a risk coming here with 5,000 yen. I need to get it from my bank."

"A bank?" Chikane seriously questioned.

"Yeah, you thought that I was just a dumb ho? Well this ho has brains!"

Himeko was shocked at what she said, but Chikane laughed, "Yeah you're right about the 'ho' part!"

"Chikane-chan, that's not nice," Himeko warned.

Corona realized her malapropism and barked, "I am not a ho!" Then she calmed down. "Anyhow, I just came here to give you some of your money. If you want the rest, be at my new place tonight at 8 PM. It's at the alley near Takeo's furniture store and the 7-Eleven."

"Why aren't you at the station anymore?"

"Me and the police had a falling out… It doesn't matter, what matters is that I'm finally paying back your crummy money."

"Fine, I'll be there," Chikane answered with her arms folded.

"Good, see you at eight." Corona left the place without even saying a good-bye.

"Why is she so rude to you all the time?" Himeko asked.

"Because she's a self-absorbed twit," Chikane snarled and headed back to their room.

Himeko looked at her lover with concern and said to herself, "I don't have a good feeling about this."


Seven o'clock came and Chikane was getting ready to visit Corona.

"Can I come with you?" Himeko lightly pleaded.

"No, I want to deal with this myself. I don't want you to be around when I choke the shit out of her for not paying me my money." Chikane mentioned.

"Chikane-chan! Don't do that!"

"I'm just kidding Himeko. I'll be right back." Chikane then kissed Himeko on her cheeks and left.

Himeko still had a very bad feeling about it. Something inside of her was telling her to go, so she quickly got her coat and left.

During her endeavor, while Chikane was walking in the cold air outside, she was talking to herself. "Corona-chan, you better have my money, or else…"

Himeko was trailing behind her, but at a far enough distance so as to not to be noticed.

When she got there, she saw Corona standing alone. Chikane noticed that the alley could not have been her new home, because it was empty. She was starting to get suspicious.

"So where's my money?" She impatiently asked, while secretly grasping her tanto.

"Right here," said a husky male voice as he kicked Chikane on her back. She fell down and turned around. What she saw was her worst nightmare, four people wearing black with top half of their faces covered in a mask. It was the black masked gang. Corona was stunned as well, surprised to see them.

"So we finally got you," said one of the members. She had a woman's voice. The voice sounded very familiar to Chikane, but she couldn't place it who it was.

"Yeah. Did you think you could get away with stealing my stuff from the pawn shop?" Shouted the leader. He was of medium built and height, yet he was strong enough to knock Chikane down.

Now Chikane was very afraid. She knew the voice; it was the notorious gangster Kazuya. He happens to be the owner of the pawnshop she robbed. Alongside was another masked member, he was tall and muscular. She assumed that it had to be his right-hand man, Ken Narita. She knew she was in deep, deep, deep trouble.

"Now it's time to finish you off, you trashy bitch!" said another familiar voice. He was skinnier than the others.

"That's what you think," Chikane hissed. "I'm not going out without a fight."

She pulled out her tanto and slashed him on the shoulders. Then she gave him a furious combo, ending with a punch to his face and he went down. After that, she went after the female assailant. Chikane slashed her on her right arm, but the assailant was able to knock the weapon out of her hand. Then she attempted to kick Chikane in her stomach, but she blocked it. The woman threw a punch and Chikane ducked it. Chikane punched her right in the face, but she didn't go down. Blood did trickle from her lips, one of the few exposed areas on her face.

"You bitch! I'm gonna make you pay for that!" she spat furiously.

The two other guys jumped in and joined in attacking Chikane. It was three to one and Chikane was at a huge disadvantage. Corona took that time to escape. Terrified, she ran away scared, thinking to herself what the hell had she done. Now Chikane was on her knees like a beaten warrior. While on her knees, the leader pulled out his razor and sliced her on her face. Blood now trickled from her face.

"You're not so tough after all. Look at you now. You think you can get away with all the shit you've done around here? Think again, rezu."

"Fuck you, you needle dick asshole." she sneered back. She maybe wounded, but she still had her pride intact.

The leader was infuriated and punched her right in her mouth. She went down, but she was still conscious.

"That should shut your trashy little mouth." The leader said with a small sense of satisfaction. "Pick this dyke-ass bitch up. We're going her use her as a punching bag."

Himeko finally got to the alley. She heard noises and took a peek in the alley. Then she saw what was going on. Two of the group members were holding Chikane while Chikane was being punched in her stomach and face by the largest man in black mask.

At first, she was stunned and scared, but Himeko knew she had to act. She was looking for anything to take them out. Finally, she saw a beer bottle lying on the concrete. So she picked it up and quietly snuck up to the guy doing the punching. With all of her strength gathered in her left arm, she swung the bottle right at his head and knocked him out.

When the two other members saw this, they were shocked. Himeko froze instantly after she was caught. They quickly recovered and the woman attacked Himeko. Himeko was able to block some of her attacks, thanks to hours of training with Chikane and Kazuki. But the woman was too skilled for Himeko and she was able to strike Himeko in her stomach. Then she gave Himeko a swift Roundhouse kick right to her chest. She flew all the way to the other side of the alley, hitting her head on the brick wall.

The woman was proud of what she did. "Well, well. It's our lucky day. We get to finish both of these bitches off."

The leader chuckled. "We sure do. But let's torture the shit out of that koji bitch some more, so we can teach that cunt a lesson."

The lady picked up a weakening and bruised Chikane, who was barely conscious, and held her up while the vengeful leader struck her twice across her face, taking out his anger on her.

"Well look at you now. You not such a tough bitch anymore, huh? Just because you're a rezu doesn't give you the right to pretend you have balls. You little soft pussy girlfriend is out cold and she's gonna suffer the same way you will. Bitch, you're gonna pay for stealing from us"

Just as he was about to deliver his third punch, someone commanded.

"Freeze! You're under arrest!"

The remaining conscious masked villains looked and saw Girochi, armed with a night stick.

Without saying a word, the leader rushed at Girochi, while the female tried to warn him.

"No! Don't do it!"

But it was too late, as Girochi anticipated his attack and brought him down. They wrestled on the ground, but he was no match for Girochi, as he slammed him on the concrete and restrained him with his mighty hands. He was able to get on top of the leader and land a few blows across his face. The leader was getting weaker and eventually stopped struggling.

The woman tried to escape, but there were two police cars already waiting for her. She calmly raised her hands up and cops quickly cuffed her.

Girochi finally cuffed the leader and then he quickly called the ambulance.

"This is Officer Martinez and I'm in need of an ambulance. We got two teenage girls who are unconscious at the alley between Takeo's furniture store and the 7-Eleven on Kaito Road."

After that, Girochi left the alley and saw the female member unmasked. A melancholy mixture of disappointment, sadness, and anger were formed in him. It was one of his colleagues, Setsuna.

Surprised at his co-worker, he had to ask her what her motive was. "Setsuna-san? But why did you do this?"

Looking squarely at Girochi, she bitterly responded, "Because these bums are responsible for killing my partner, and he paid better money than this shitty job ever did!" She expectorated.

Setsuna had a partner who was killed by a homeless guy two years back. She was close to him, even rumored to be lovers, although her partner was engaged. It bothered her to the point that she agreed to help out Kazuya. Also, as she mentioned, the money was good as well. Japanese cops don't get paid a lot.

"I can't believe you would do something like this. Using revenge to justify your motive of killing innocent people is just plain sick. You are a disgrace to all the cops that ever wore a uniform." Girochi shot back.

"Oh please spare me the morals crap! Those homeless people have none whatsoever. If they did they wouldn't be where they're at!"

"She's right!" shouted the skinny masked man behind Girochi, who finally regained consciousness.

Girochi turned around. He recognized the voice and came up to him as the other cop was holding his arms back. He pulled the masked off and was even more shocked. It was Yukihiro.

"Yuki-san, why are you involved in this? I know you had issues with Oogami-sensei, but why?"

Yukihiro started to tear up as he explained his reason. "It's because of these pathetic people who drain our resources and disgrace our country while people like my father struggled to find a new job. We had to leave our house that we lived in ever since I was a baby. We had to move into a roach-infested apartment, don't you know how shameful that is? Those bums don't deserve to live. All they do is leach off of us!"

Girochi was mad and told him, "You don't know anything about these homeless people. They were just like your dad, they ran into a lot of bad luck."

"Bad luck! That's pure bullshit! They were failures of this society, who didn't know how to save and probably were lazy at work. My father was fired because he was going to report on his company's illegal stock trading. Now he's blacklisted."

"Did you ever think that some of them have a similar story like your dad? I mean they're suffering like you and your family."

"I seriously doubt that! What the hell do you know about suffering? What have you lost? You're paid by our tax money."

An furious look appeared on Girochi's face. He used every single bit of his composure to refrain himself from hurting Yukihito. "What do I know about suffering and loss? More than you think," he said in a slow and gravelly tone. "When you lose both of your parents to a civil war, and have to flee from your own country for your life, then come and talk to me. Otherwise, get the fuck out of my face. Take him away."

"Yes sir." The cop took Yukihiro to the car and drove him along with Setsuna to the police station. Girochi didn't bother to look back, nor did he have time to think about those two, as he had to deal with the two unconscious girls. They were bleeding rather badly and Girochi had to stop it, so he and another cop tended to the wounded girls while the ambulance was coming. The ambulance finally came and Girochi assisted the paramedics in bringing in the girls.


"Are they going to be okay?" Girochi asked.

"They are seriously bleeding from their head wounds, we need to stop the bleeding first to be able to assess the severity of any other injuries," said the paramedic.

Himeko and Chikane were both unconscious and they had a concussions. They were in the ambulance as the paramedics were frantically working on stabilizing them. Girochi was inside, worried about them. He wasn't very religious, but he prayed for them, hoping they would make it. He knew he had to call Kazuki and his sister about the bad news. That was the last thing he wanted to do, they already had enough bad news.

"How's the pulse on the blue-haired one?" asked one of the paramedics.

"Slightly-weak," responded the other. "What about the other one?"

"She's fine. All vital pulses seem to be normal. She hit her head hard though. She does have a minor cranial swelling."

"Make sure the swelling doesn't get too big. Plus, monitor the swelling, apply ice pack and check for other signs of brain bleeding"


They continued working on the girls until they arrived at the hospital. Luckily, they were able to stabilize the mikos.


After they arrived at the hospital, Girochi called Kazuki first then his sister, and finally Keroshi and Natashi.

Meanwhile, Himeko and Chikane were in the trauma unit, as they were being worked on.

For over two hours, the doctors were working on the girls making sure they didn't lose too much blood. It was a typical medical procedure, but there was still a good chance that things could go wrong. Girochi waited anxiously in the waiting room, hoping to hear anything about them.

Finally the head doctor came to Girochi and told him the news.

"Officer Martinez?"


"I just finish operating on the two girls. They are in stable condition."

Girochi sighed in relief. "Thank goodness."

"Kurusuga Himeko only has a few minor cuts and bruises along with a potentially severe concussion. She will need to stay overnight for monitoring to ensure the brain is healing"

"That's good."

"But as for Himemiya Chikane, she does have a two cracked ribs and a fractured left arm along with her concussion and cut to her face. Again, we want to keep her for a few days to monitor the head injury. It appears the young woman had multiple impacts to her torso and head. We were able to stop the internal bleeding and all her organs are functioning withing normal parameters. We expect a full recovery from both ladies."

"Well, that' not so bad after all, even though it sounds a lot?"

The doctor nodded, "Yeah, they're very lucky not to have any permanent injuries."

"So where are they now?"

"They are being sent upstairs to their room. You can go up there right now."

"Thanks doc, you don't know how much I appreciate your work," Giroch thanked with a bow.

The doctor chuckled, "No problem. I'm just doing my job."

Girochi immediately went to their hospital room. There he was, watching the two, wondering when, and if, they will wake up.

Ten minutes later, Kazuki and Souma arrive. A huge concerned look appeared on their faces as they saw the girls lying in their beds.

Kazuki came up to Girochi, "I want to thank you so much for saving them."

"No problem, Oogami-san. If Corona-san didn't call me, I would have never been there."

Souma looked at him and said, "Corona-san?"

"Corona-san saw it, so she called me and told me about it."

Kazuki was surprised, "Well, I should thank her as well." None of them knew that Corona was part of the set-up.

A few minutes later, Natashi and Keroshi came.

"Are they okay?" Natashi asked.

"Yes they are. Doctor said they will be alright, they're just recuperating right now."

"I can't believe that they would go to the alley at that time of the night. For what?" Kazuki questioned.

"I don't know, Nii-san. They didn't tell me anything."

It was then that the young blond finally woke from her sleep. She slowly opened her eyes half-way and then rubbed them. "Where am I?"

Souma was the first to hear her, so he responded, "You're okay. You're at the hospital."

"Really? How did I get here?" she asked weakly.

"The ambulance picked you two up after they arrested the black mask group." Souma told her, trying to hold back his anger as he still is upset that his best friend, Yukihiro, was part of the group.

"Oh… So is Chikane-chan here as well? Where is she?"

Kazuki told her, "She at your left, still unconscious."

Himeko turned her head and faced the sleeping bluenette. She was lying there, with a cast on her arm and bandages on her head.

Himeko asked one of the visitors, "Is she okay? Will she make it? I hope she does," she ended as she started to tear up.

"She will be okay, but she got really bruised up. They also cut her up a bit," Girochi informed her.

"Really? Almost like Hana-chan." Keroshi stated.

"Probably worse, had I not got there," Girochi brought up.

"I still can't believe that Setsuna-san was part of it. I feel betrayed," Natashi seethed a bit.

"I'm with you on that. This is the woman who I got hired to help me out for New Year's Day," Kazuki added.

"How do you think I feel? She's one of my colleagues." Girochi said angrily grumbled.

"You mean that Setsuna-san was part of the group?" Himeko asked.

"Yes she was, and so was Yukihiro." Souma added.

"That hurts me even more," Kazuki responded.

"I know what you mean, Nii-san."

It left Himeko speechless a bit. Finally she found her voice and replied, "Oh my…"

"Worst yet, they, along with that murderous, despicable, thug leader of theirs, will be charged with at least three counts of murder, including Hana-chan's." Girochi informed everyone in the room. Kazuki and Souma closed their eyes and shook their heads.

Meanwhile in the hospital, a middle-aged blond woman popped into the room along with a short, spectacled brunette. Kazuki was stunned when he saw her. The blond looked like an older version of Himeko with green eyes and a bit taller.

"Is Himeko here?" She asked with almost the same vocal tone as Himeko's.

"Yes she is, how can I help you?" Girochi asked.

"I want to see Himeko, please." Then she saw Himeko lying in her bed. She quickly ran up to her.

"Who are you?" Girochi asked but the woman ignored him. Kazuki and Souma wondered who she was as well, until they examined her a bit. Then they realized who she was.

"Oh Himeko, are you alright?" the woman asked liked a concerned mother.

At first, Himeko was puzzled at who the lady was, but as she studied her facial features, she realized who she was.


[End notes: End of Part 2]

Chapter 22

Title: Starting All Over Again

“Oh Himeko, are you alright?” the woman asked liked a concerned mother.

At first, Himeko was puzzled at who the lady was, but as she studied her facial features, she realized who she was.


It brought a warm feeling to Noriko that her daughter still knew who she was, despite all those years of separation.

"Yes, it's me!" She elated.

Himeko was speechless for a bit, stunned that she finally met her mother. She had been searching for so long, and now she finally meets her, though not in the best condition.

"Mama!" She cried in joy. Himeko was quite surprised how much she and her mother looked alike. She tried to get up to hug her, but she was still in pain. Instead, Noriko reached down and hugged her. Tears were flowing from both of their eyes.

“I thought this day will never come.” wept an emotional Noriko.

“Same here, mama. Same here.”

There were smiles coming from everybody in the room, and a few tears, especially from Keroshi, as he felt jubilated for uniting the two. Just yesterday, Keroshi found the mother and told her about Himeko. They were planning to meet Himeko on that night after she came from work.
After they finished their hugging, Noriko told her, “I was going to meet you at the temple tonight, but when I got word from Keroshi-san that you were at the hospital, I had to immediately leave work and come here.”

“So how did you find her, Keroshi-chan?” Natashi asked.

“I did a search for her on MySpace and saw her page, so I contacted her, telling her that I knew her daughter and that she was looking for her.”

“At first, I thought it was a prank until he sent me a picture of her with that Hana-chan guy and that blue-haired girl.” Noriko informed. “But I’m glad that she’s alright.”

Then Chikane started moving in her bed. Everybody took notice. She rubbed her eyes and opened them, to the surprise to seeing all those people looking at her.
“Oh my God. I’m still alive.”

The room turned their focus to Chikane.

Himeko was the first to speak. “Chikane-chan!”

“Himeko…” Chikane replied weakly. She tried to turn her body towards Himeko, but she felt a sharp pain in her ribs.


Girochi told her, “The doctor said that you have two fractured ribs.”

At first, Chikane was discouraged, but she quickly got over it, realizing how lucky she was. “Well, it sure beats being dead.”

“I’d say. You two are very fortunate that nothing more serious happened.” Kazuki stated with both firmness and concern. “What were you two doing out there in the middle of the night?”

“Well, Corona-san came to our place earlier today…” She went on to explain how Corona approached her at the shrine and told her to meet her at the alley, only to be attacked when she got there, and how Himeko saved her.

“Yeah! Those bastards jumped me and Corona-san was a part of it!”

“I see.” Kazuki mused.

“Then I need to go find Corona-san. She’s now considered a suspect.” Girochi noted.

“Yeah, I want to have a word with her.” Kazuki answered plainly, while hiding the anger that was burning inside.

“I think all of us do,” Natashi fumed. “I knew that she was scrupulous, but I didn’t think that she would do something like this.”

“Let’s not worry about that for now. I’ll get to the bottom of this. She can’t hide forever.“ Girochi fumed.
Then Chikane noticed a woman who looks similar to Himeko. “Himeko, you didn’t tell me anything about you having an older sister?”

The people laughed in the room. Amused, Noriko answered. “I’m not Himeko’s sister, I’m Himeko’s mother!”

“And I’m the one who has the misfortune to live with her,” Reiko joked in her sarcasm matter. Noriko just lightly punched her on the shoulders. She was used to Reiko’s sarcasm and rebuttals.

Chikane’s eyes widened when she heard that. “Really?”

“Of course! My name is Kurusugawa Noriko, and this is my partner, Ota Reiko.”

“Nice to meet you.” Reiko responded in her usual deadpanned tone.

“Her partner?” Natashi whispered to Kazuki. “You mean that they’re also…?”

“Possibly?” Kazuki shrugged.

“So… How long have you been here, Kurusugawa-san?” Chikane asked.

“Only fifteen minutes. So you’re Himeko’s best friend?”

“Ano… You could say that.”

“I’m glad that she has a friend like you!”
Chikane smiled and tolder her, “I’m glad to have a daughter like yours. She saved my life.”

Noriko smiled, “Yeah, my daughter is a hero!”

Himeko blushed a bit. “It was nothing really. I had a bad suspicion about her meeting with Corona, so I followed her behind, and when I saw her being attacked, I grabbed the nearest thing I can use as a weapon.”

“Yeah, but you still saved Himemiya-san’s life! You’re still a hero!”

“Yeah, she’s right!” Girochi added to back her up.

Then the nurse came and told them, “I will have to ask you guys to leave soon. They will have to go to sleep in about ten minutes.”

“No problem, miss.” Kazuki replied. “We’ll get ourselves ready.”

“Thanks.” And the nurse left the room.

Souma ended with, “Well, we’ll come back tomorrow and check up on you guys.”

“Thanks.” Chikane smiled.

They left the place and then the nurse came back and turned off the lights.

“Good night you two.”

In the dark, Chikane had a talk with Himeko.

“I’m amazed that you are willing to put your life in jeopardy for me.”

“Of course I would, I love you Chikane-chan! You’re the most important person in my life. After all, you put your life at risk when you saved me from the Snake Clan, and you didn’t even know me back then.”

Chikane smiled in the dark, satisfied of the answer. “You’re right. I couldn’t let those bastards attempt to rape you.”

“And I thank you very much for that.” Then Himeko yawned. “I’m getting sleepy. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

They went to sleep, thankful that they are still alive and that Himeko finally met her mother.


The next morning, while they were still in the hospital, a purple-haired, brown-skinned woman came into the room. Chikane was stunned and frightful to see her.

“Hello Kurusugawa-san.” It was Sister Miyako. “Sorry I couldn’t come yesterday; I was at my job during the time.”

“Oh no…”

“You have nothing to fear from me. I am glad to see that you are okay.”

“So that you can take me back to the orphanage, like hell you are!” Chikane protested. “Just because I’m in the hospital with tubes in me doesn’t mean that you got me in your clutch!”

“No, it’s not like that! Please listen to me!”

“Yes, please listen to her Chikane-chan.” Himeko pleaded for Sister Miyako.

Chikane saw the honesty in Himeko’s face, then she looked back at Miyako and told her, “You better make it quick.”
Miyako didn’t budge. “It won’t take long. I want to tell you that I helped save your life in the orphanage.

Chikane was surprised. “Huh?”

“Let me explain…”


“On that day, Sister McGlade came to the room and saw you two on the floor, with a small pool of blood underneath you two.”

“Oh my God,” screamed Sister McGlade.

“’What’s going on?’ I asked, hearing her scream from the hallway.”

“Call 119! Chikane-san and Otoha-san slit their wrists!”
I came into the room and saw you two lying on the floor, with Sister McGlade trying to stop the bleeding. “Oh my God! I’ll call them immediately.”

“So I quickly grabbed my cell and call the ambulance. Thanks to Sister McGlade’s being a former registered nurse, she was able to stop your bleeding and Otoha’s as well. The ambulance came and was able to stabilize you, but not Otoha.”

“After the funeral, Sister McGlade and I complained about what was going on in the orphanage, and threatened to take it up to the higher-ups, but then we were released from our duty. Sister McGlade went back to New Zealand, working as a nurse. However, thanks to some strings my brother’s boss pulled, I was able to get work with the Tokyo Catholic Foundation.”

Chikane didn’t say a word, but her silence told Sister Miyako everything.

“So you see, you have nothing to fear from me.”
Chikane still wasn’t sure. “How can I be so sure? How can I believe that you won’t turn around and still send me back?”

“This is how...” MIyako proceed to call Kazuki. “Moshi-moshi Oogami-sensei, how are you? …I’m fine too. Well I’m here with Chikane-san and I told you that I might need you to back me up when I meet her. …Good, I’ll let you talk to her.”

Then she handed over the phone to Chikane and she listened.


“Chikane, it’s me, Oogami-sensei.” Chikane slowly swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. “It’s all true that Sister Miyako is saying.”

Chikane was stunned for a bit, not saying anything. Neither Miyako nor Himeko didn’t say anything either, letting Chikane think things over. It was completely silent until Kazuki spoke up in the phone.

“Himemiya-san? Are you still there?”

“Oh yeah, I’m still here Oogami-sensei.”

“Ah good. Yes, Sister Miyako won’t send you back, and you should thank her for saving your life.”

This gave something to think about. Chikane was always someone who didn’t trust people, but at that time, she was in the room with two people who saved her life. It got her thinking more about how she treats people.

“You’re right Oogami-sensei. I will do that. Thanks.”

“No problem. So did you get word from the doctor when you are coming out?”

“Yeah, it will be tomorrow. I’m a very much looking forward to getting back home.”

“I understand. Well you’ll be back in no time. Until then, I wish you a wonderful recovery and good day.”

“Good day to you too, Oogami sensei.”

Chikane then handed the phone back to Sister Miyako. She sighed a bit and then apologized to Miyako.

“I’m sorry about how I acted towards you. If anything, I’m thankful for what you’ve done for me on that day.”

“That’s okay. I’m just glad that you are still living.”

Sister Miyako stayed for a while, then she went back to the cathedral. For the rest of the day, they explored the hospital, as weak as Chikane was. The rest of the time, they were in the room, watching TV and chatting.


The next day, the doctors gave them the clearance to leave the hospital. When they were about to leave the hospital, they were surprised to see Noriko and Reiko waiting in the guess room.

“Mama!” Himeko quickly ran over and hugged her.

“Hi Himeko. Sorry we couldn’t visit yesterday. We had to take care of our rent money.”

“That’s not a problem. I’m looking forward to seeing your apartment.” Himeko stated. It made Reiko uncomfortable when she said that.

“Himeko, can I asked you something?” Noriko asked.


“How do you feel about moving in with us?”
Reiko was shocked when Noriko asked that.

“We can’t just accept that like that, we don’t have enough room or money to support them.”

“Sure we do.”

Before Reiko was about to protest, Kazuki and Souma arrived.

“Are you ready to go back home?” Kazuki asked.

“Yeah, very much so.” Chikane replied.

“Oh hi there, Kurusugawa-san.” Kazuki greeted to Noriko.

“And… what’s your name again?”

“Ota. Ota Reiko.”

“Ah yes, Ota-san. How are you both doing?”

“Great! Now that Himeko is out.” Noriko elated. “I know that we have a lot to catch up.”

“Yes, I can imagine. Do you want to come to our shrine? We have some lunch already prepared.”


“Great. Just follow us. We’re glad to have you join us.”

As they left the hospital, Himeko was already starting to bond with her mother. While she was walking with her, she had her left arm around her mother’s waist and head on her mother’s right shoulder.


An hour later, they arrived at Kazuki and Souma’s place. They had a nice lunch, consist of sushi and teriyaki chicken. As conversions were going on, Kazuki and Himeko found out that Noriko was an office lady by day and a musician by night, while Reiko was a commercial artist. What the elder couple didn’t know was that Kazuki and Souma knew where they lived.

After they were done, Noriko wanted to see Kazuki privately, so they went to his office. While they were in the office, Noriko talked to Kazuki.

“Could you please let Himeko stay with me for a while?”

“I don’t know. Souma checked out your living area the other day, and it is not a very desirable area. Also, how would I know you won’t go back to your old ways?”

“I won’t. I’ve been doing fine for over seven years. There’s no record of me. I haven’t been arrested since those days. I know you care a lot about Himeko, but you can trust me with her.”

“But Kurusugawa-san just came from a similar situation. She was homeless.”

That took Noriko by surprised. “What? You’re kidding?”

“I don’t do much kidding, and I wouldn’t kid over something like that.” Kazuki deadpanned. “Kurusugawa-san and Himemiya-san were living in those makeshift tents at the park. I decided to ‘adopt’ them, so to speak, so that they can have a normal teenager life. I don’t want them to struggle again.”

“They won’t. I will take a good care of them.”

“How can I guarantee that they will be okay? What guarantee can you give me that their grades will still be good, especially Himeko’s, who is even lucky to be attending Hanayaka? She’s finally doing well academically for once.”

“It will do them good to stay with us, since we are only a few blocks away from the school. We will make sure that she stays on top of her schoolwork.”
Then a knock was heard from the door. Kazuki opened it and saw Himeko.

“Hey Kurusugawa-san, what’s up?”

“I was just wondering where mama was.”

“I’m glad you’re here, Kurursugawa-san. I would like to ask you one question.”

“What is it?”

“Would you like to move in to your mother’s place?”

Pure joy came from Himeko when she heard that. “Absolutely! I would love too!” Hiemko quickly hugged her.

“Thank Kurusugawa-san. I need to talk to your mother privately for a bit.”


Himeko left the office. Kazuki saw that Himeko really wants to be with her mother, and it wouldn’t be wise to prevent that, so he gave it, until one condition.

“Okay, she will stay with you, but if anything serious happens to either Kurusugawa-san or Himemiya-san, they are coming back here.”

“Himemiya-san? The blue-haired girl?”

“Yes. Your daughter and the ‘blue-haired girl’ are a couple. They love each other very much and they are not going anywhere unless you take both of them together.”
That really changes things for Noriko. She wasn’t having much luck convincing Reiko to take in Himeko, but now she has to convince her to take in another person.

“I see… So maybe they were right, it’s part of genetics.”

That brought a small smile to Kazuki. “Apparently yeah, but since I see that you have a female partner yourself, you have no problems with your daughter’s homosexuality. That was my other concern.”

“Absolutely not. In fact, I’m glad to see that she got herself a hottie!” Noriko giggled. Kazuki smiled and shooked his head.

“That she does. However, more than likely Kurusugawa-san will want Himemiya-san to move with her. You can’t separate those two. I will check up on those two constantly. If I find out if anything of these things are occurring such as not enough food, always in danger, their grades are slipping, or that you are having a drug relapse, then I will immediately take them away from you. Understand?”

Noriko swallowed a lump in her throat. “Yes, I totally understood.”

“Good.” Kazuki simply ended as he left the room and Noriko followed.

While they were walking back to the living room area, Noriko was thinking, “I hope nothing backfires on us…”


For the next two hours, the mikos, along with Kazuki, Souma, and Makoto, who came during Kazuki and Noriko’s meeting, were still getting acquainted with Noriko and Reiko. When Reiko checked out the time, she told Noriko that they had to leave.

“Honey, it's time for us to leave.”

“Okay thanks.” They she looked at Chikane and Himeko and said, “I think I need to tell you two something.”

“Sure.” Himeko replied.

“Yeah what is it?” Chikane asked.
She cleared her throat, and then asked, “Oogami-sensei has allowed you two to move in with us. I know Himeko is okay about it, but how about you, Himemiya-san?”

“I’m fine with it. You can call me Chikane-san by the way.”

“Great Chikane-san! We’ll be here next week to pick you two up.”
Reiko wasn’t happy about it and whispered it to Noriko.

“I thought it was just her.”

“We’ll talk about it in the car.”

“This will be great mama!” Himeko elated as she hugged her mother, nearly squeezing her. “I’m very much looking forward to it.”

“So am I, baby.” Noriko replied.
Chikane smiled and saw how happy Himeko was. Seeing her partner being happy was good enough for her.
After the couple left, they had the discussion in the car.

“Chikane is Himeko’s girlfriend. They are very close, so she has to move in with us.”

“No she doesn’t. She can come and visit her if she wants, but she’s not moving in with us.”

“Yes she is. Himeko won’t go without her, and I waited over ten years to have my daughter again! She’s staying!”

“Well if she’s staying, then you’ll be the one who has to pay for food and clothing!” Reiko shouted back.


For the rest of the trip, they didn’t speak to each other.


The next week, Noriko arrived with an old 1994 Honda Accord. Immediately the two girls knew that Noriko and Reiko didn't have a lot of money. It didn't matter to Himeko however, because she finally gets to be with her mom.
As they were in the car, Himeko noticed that Reiko wasn’t inside.

“Where’s Reiko-san?”

“Oh she's at work right now. You'll see her later on today.”
Kazuki was busy cleaning up the main area, but Souma was there to say his good bye to the two girls.

“I have to admit, it was nice having you two around, especially you Himeko.”

Himeko shyly blushed. “Don’t mention it.”

“I hope everything turns out fine for you two over there.”

“It will. Just like what Himeko said, don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine.” Chikane told him.

Yet deep down inside, he wasn’t so sure. Nevertheless, he didn’t bring up how he felt. Instead, he continued the discussion as-is.

“Well take care of yourself, Himeko-san.” He then hugged her.

“You too, Souma-san.”

Then he came up to Chikane and looked at her, eye to eye. The history between the two was anything but rosy, and he knew that he had to bring up their past animosity to each other. He took a deep breath before speaking.

“I know that we had our issues in the past, but I am still thankful for staying with us. Here, I want to give this to you as a symbol of my forgiveness.”

Souma handed her a piece of candy, but it was not just a regular piece of cany.

“Chonmage Yookan. You really mean it?” Chonmage Yookan is a type of candy used when someone is asking for forgiveness.

Souma answered with a bow. “I really do.”
Chikane didn’t say anything for a bit, instead she bowed back as well.

“I’m sorry too. Please accept my forgiveness.”


Then she hugged them. Himeko shed a tear, finally seeing a truce between the two. She was shocked to see Chikane doing something like that, even though she was becoming less cold and distant then in the past. The incident left Norika smiling from ear to ear.

After the hug, Chikane turned around to face Noriko. “We are ready.”

“Alright! Just bring your stuff so we can get rolling!”


Finally they got to the place. They noticed that the apartment looked a bit runned-down. Himeko and Chikane looked at each other, wondering if they made the right decision.

They took the elevator and arrived at their section. When Noriko opened the door and turned on the lights, the mikos noticed how small it was. The kitchen and living room was basically one, plus there was a small TV and a futon in the main room. It was quite apparent that there was only one bedroom and that Himeko and Chikane had to sleep on the futon.

“Well, this is home.” Norkio said.

“Not much of it…” Chikane cynically muttered.

Himeko asked, “So how far are you from our school?”

“Only six blocks away. That’s about 15 minutes.”

“Oh I see.”

“We don’t have a room for you two, but we do have a Futon, so you have to use that for your bed, and you can use our room to change if you have to.”

“…Thanks.” Chikane hesitantly responded.

“This place may be small, but we have a lot of thing to do in the area. We got a park, an arcade, and a clothing store, and that’s just on the other block.”

“Oh thanks.” Himeko responded.

“Do you two want something to eat?”

The two looked at each other and shrugged.

“Sure. Why not?”

“Okay, come to the kitchen with me.”

The two followed Noriko to the kitchen. As she turned on the light, Himeko saw some critters crawling on the counter.

“Roaches!” she yelped.

“Oh my God…” Chikane sighed.

Noriko quickly got nervous. “The landlord was supposed to get someone to take care of it.”

“Ano… I’m not hungry anymore.” Himeko said as she went back to the Futon.

“Same here…” Chikane replied as she went back as well. Noriko sighed and had her head down as she went back to her room.

“Please Kami, help me out here.” she quietly pleaded.


For the next few hours, the mikos were in the room watching TV. Reiko arrived and had a talk with Noriko in the bathroom, about having the two staying.

Reiko came out of their bedroom and saw the mikos sleeping while the TV is still on. She went up to them and woke them up.

“Let me set up the Futon so that you two can sleep properly.”

“Oh thank you, Miss.” Chikane thanked.

“Just call me Reiko-san.”

“Well thank you, Reiko-san.” Himeko thanked with a small bow at the end.

Reiko had the Futon set up so they can sleep on it.

“Well here you go. I hope you two will have a good night.”

“I think we will.” Himeko replied assumingly.
Reiko headed back to the bedroom and the two girls got themselves ready for bed.

Twenty minutes later while they were asleep, Himeko and Chikane heard some squeaking noise.

“What’s that?” Himeko asked.

“Oh it sounds like rats.”

“Rats! Oh my…”

“What? You never had rats in your area when you were in the park?”

“No. I think because Nekoko’s cats took care of them.”

“Oh I see.”

Himeko then hugged Chikane tighter as she tried to go back to sleep. Chikane was now wondering if this was a big mistake. It was almost like when they were homeless, but they weren't going to turn back now. Chikane knew how important was for Himeko to bond with her mother. Little did they know was that there were going to be more than just a bad place to overcome…


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